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Staring Down Cancer

The need for education on depression and suicide

Obit Robin Williams.jpg

FILE - This June 15, 2007 file photo shows actor and comedian Robin Williams posing for a photo in Santa Monica, Calif. Williams, whose free-form comedy and adept impressions dazzled audiences for decades, died Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in an apparent suicide. Williams was 63. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS2014)

Depression. People just don't get it because they don't understand it.

To think suicide is a result of selfishness makes me want to scream and cry at the same time. We need to educate ourselves before we throw around judgement.

Robin Williams' suicide is my case in point. Depression and drug abuse were things that Robin struggled with his whole life. He was drug-free for 20 years, and that is an incredible achievement. I am certain that, while he was drug-free, it would be unlikely that he was not suffering from some level of depression. Depression has levels, just as breast cancer has subtypes. Some types are worse than others.

When a person is depressed to the point of suicide, this person is not thinking about hurting his or her loved ones. They are not being "selfish" as so many have said about Robin. To be deeply depressed is to be in a zone so dark and painful that thoughts of your loved ones do not exist. I know this, because I have been to that very dark place more than once.

Whatever it is that takes you there ― incurable cancer, a debilitating chronic disease, fear, perceived failure ― when you are at the bottom of the bottom, very often you can not surface. Suicide seems to be the only answer. You will be free. Free from yourself, not your loved ones.

I feel only compassion, empathy and sadness for Robin. I was lucky enough to pull myself free and swim to the surface. How? I don't know. I must have an angel who saved me.

Incurable diseases, chronic illness, pain, and depression ― to me, these are all forms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It's torturous. Some of us carry on, and some of us don't. But to judge us as selfish is to be selfish and ignorant.

This will continue to be a deeply sad experience for Robin's family and friends, but they will not judge him. They will just love him, and thank God to have been lucky enough to have been a part of his life. He was a genius, and I promise there will never be the likes of this enormously talented person again. Rest in peace, Robin.

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women's cancer research. To stay in touch with Noreen, please 'LIKE' The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.  Noreen can be contacted via email at noreen@noreenfraserfoundation.org.