I remember when she passed away. (I would like to place the utmost respect on her name and her memory but won’t name names). Her family posted on Instagram the news about her death. She had posted a few days earlier that she was in the hospital being treated for blood clots. I remember seeing her post, sending her a message, supporting her, and wishing the best for her in her treatment. The morning I saw that post, I cried. Over a stranger. One that I had admired.
I remember when my hairstylist was telling me about her. She saw an advertisement from a print ad and said she saw a woman just like me. That night, she sent that print ad to me. Immediately, I became obsessed. I found out all I could about her. She, like me, was an amputee that had survived cancer. I was amazed. She was living her life and traveling. And working. I had hoped to get to this level someday.
I had just gotten home from a six-week stay at a rehabilitation center, and prior to that, a 5-week hospital stay for what was supposed to be a routine surgery. When I got home, the real battle began. I had severe PTSD and attempted to piece my life back together and I was doing ok until I saw that post. There was another celebrity that had a close relative die due to issues from blood clots and it happened within a few weeks of hers.
I was devastated, to be honest. It hit me hard. I had my leg amputated due to a blood clot, brought on by the chemotherapy treatment for stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. To hear about others dying from something that should have killed you is devastating. I start to spiral when I hear stories like this. It starts as numbness, then it works its way into full-blown depression. This specific news resulted in me staying in bed for a couple of days. I slept, didn’t return calls or text messages, and didn’t eat much. I started to ask the questions: “Why did you live?” and “Why them and not me?”
I’ve gotten better at coping since then. I started EMDR therapy, I can confide in a few friends about what is going on, and I started journaling. Occasionally, it helps to digitally detox from social media. Social media can be a tool and source of education, but not when I have survivor’s guilt. I also have medication to help with anxiety sleep.
I ended up in the hospital after all this due to an allergic reaction to blood thinners. My leg ended up going numb, and I called my vascular surgeon. He told me, “Meet me at this hospital. NOW.” Because I acted quickly, my parents rushed me to the hospital, and I went in for surgery. They found a thromba of blood clots, removed them quickly, and placed me on a different blood thinner medication. I told this story to my therapist a few weeks after and she told me this:
“Your self-awareness saved you, in this instance. I know that when you hear about other people in the news who die from cancer, blood clot related stuff, or major illness, you get upset and it hurts you, but you listened to your body and acted on it. You also don’t know the full story of those others. And it’s not for you to speculate on.”
I try to remember all these things each time my survivor’s guilt starts.