Survivor’s Guilt

John Goebel

Now that I’ve had two gastro tests with negative results, I feel safe in saying that I don’t have any serious gastrointestinal diseases or cancer. I feel some combination of relief but also a tad of survivor’s guilt. In addition to my brother, I’ve had other friends and family succumb to gastric and colon cancers over the years.

It all seems like such a crap shoot – some of us “win” the genetic lottery of cancer mutations, and some of us survive with decent health – for now, at least. It begs the question, why do some of us stay in good health where others have the incredible bad luck, through no fault of their own, of getting terminal illness. In these past few months since James was diagnosed with gastric cancer, I have often wondered what I have done to deserve my (thus far) decent state of health. The reality is that I’ve done nothing – I don’t regularly exercise and I don’t pay much attention to what or how much I eat. It all feels grossly unfair.

I’ll never forget when John Goebel told me he had been diagnosed with Colon cancer. It blew my mind. Here was this 38-year-old who was the epitome of good health: ate right, exercised, and looked great. He looked 10 years younger than his age. It seemed like such a cruel joke that he would be the one to leave behind his family while many of us with poor lifestyle habits have the luxury of seeing our children grow up.

Then again, I could be diagnosed tomorrow with some terminal illness or die in a horrible accident, rendering this post entirely moot. If the last 6 months have taught me anything, it’s that these things can change rather rapidly.


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