Survivor Guilt

A young woman died yesterday of metastatic lung cancer; I am still here. Why? I don’t know why. I read almost daily of someone in our lung cancer community who has died. And for every one, I shed a few tears. But there are those who are still fighting, and I count myself among that number. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in October, and after 4 treatments with chemo, I am on maintenance therapy. I don’t know how long the drugs will work, and I don’t know what comes next. I only know that lung cancer kills more people than all other cancers combined, and that the funding for lung cancer research is woefully inadequate.

Why do some people survive and others not? I don’t know what the variable is. But sometimes I feel guilty for being on maintenance therapy and doing well when there are others who have reached the end of their options. And there are those for whom nothing works at all. I don’t know what makes the difference; I wish I did, and I wish I could give it to all of those on this journey. It isn’t fair that young women are dying of this disease; they have their whole lives ahead of them.

I know it isn’t up to me to decide who lives and who dies. And I’m glad for that. I spent many years as a nurse and saw what those decisions did to those who had to make them. I remember patients as young as 16 dying of cancer. But that was so long ago. Lung cancer treatment has advanced, but the survival rates are still abysmal. Is it because of the perception that only smokers get lung cancer? If so, we need to change that. More and more never-smokers are being diagnosed with lung cancer, and the diagnosis almost always comes when the disease has already advanced to the metastatic stage.

So one more death to make me sad and mad. And why am I still alive and she isn’t?

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That time of year

It’s that time of year again when all the stores try to get us to buy stuff. I hate that the Christmas commercials started well before Halloween, and the Christmas merchandise was in the stores before the Halloween candy was even sold. Now I see where some stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day instead of at least waiting for Black Friday.

I understand that stores need to make money, and I understand that working retail means sometimes having to work on a Holiday. But I, for one, am sick of it. Our culture says buy this, buy that, and somehow makes it seem that we aren’t complete without the biggest, fastest, newest, whatever. 

Corporations are making lots of money; look at how much the top people are paid. So they aren’t hurting for money. The stockholders often determine the fate of a company, so they are the ones the corporations listen to, not the customers, and certainly not its employees. I can still remember a time when companies paid their employees well, and customers were treated like the business depended on them (and it did!)

What companies don’t seem to understand is that if its employees are paid well, they can afford to buy the companies products. If wages fall, and they have been falling for some time now, who can afford to buy the company’s products? Companies are blaming unions for their failures, and while some unions may be greedy and corrupt, it’s because of unions that we have 8-hour workdays, lunch breaks, safety in the workplace, and a whole myriad of things that make workplaces better.

I think what gripes me the most is that companies aren’t placing the blame for their failures where it belongs, on their greed. I know that some companies do pay their workers a living wage and they still manage to make a profit. But when profit comes before the welfare of a company’s workers, our system is broken.

I won’t be shopping any chain stores on Thanksgiving Day, nor on Black Friday. I will support local businesses, because they are the lifeblood of our communities. When you shop at locally-owned businesses, 74% of what you spend stays in the community. When you shop at non-locally-owned businesses, 43% of what you spend stays in the community. For me, the math is simple; shop local and the community benefits.