Episode 13: The Guilt of Survival

“What if he doesn’t survive? He’s worth a lot to me.”  Boba Fett, Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back

The anxiety I have been feeling since completing treatments has finally started to fade away!  A large part to do with keeping myself busy by working out a lot and starting rehearsals for a musical I’m in.  I actually feel the best I have felt in a really long time!!  I don’t often worry about dealing with side effects anymore, even though they hit me from time to time.  They are now few and far between and that includes having to see the doctor.  I also don’t often worry about having a recurrence, either.  I try not to let that invade my mind  However, something that has really plagued me recently is “survival’s guilt.”  I feel so incredibly fortunate that I have survived and defeated this awful disease…  But many people are not as lucky and I feel guilty that I was lucky.  As much as I try to preach positivity and hopefulness, I’ve learned how difficult that can actually be when dealing with more advanced and aggressive forms of cancer.  Especially when the prognosis is not good.

I’ve also been having a hard time finding the right thing to say to people that are dealing with cancer themselves.  I think, “Well, I’ve been there and done that and I should be an expert now!”  But it’s not easy.  Everyone deals with difficult situations in their own way, and I often worry that I may say the wrong thing.  It never bothered me when people asked what was going on with me and I was comfortable talking about it.  Even when people said some things that were on the insensitive side, I let it roll off my shoulders because most people mean well.  Some would say, “Oh, I knew someone that had cancer.  And they died!”  Uhhhh, I don’t need to know that!

But that is the true reality of cancer.  Not everyone survives.  Some fight for years and years and ultimately cancer takes them.  It breaks my heart and I tear up every time I think about it.  I get upset at myself when I think about the people in my life that had cancer before me and I didn’t take the time to really think about what they were going through.

I can’t say that I have the right answer in how to deal with this feeling, but I’m working through it.  I have to remember to be thankful… So very thankful for my survival. But also remember that not all cancer stories are like mine.  And to be there for others when I can by listening or offering advice and support when they need it.  And to remember the ones who are no longer with us.  And most importantly, try to stay positive, kind, empathetic, thoughtful, and hopeful while I’m still here.

Up next: Episode 14

One thought on “Episode 13: The Guilt of Survival

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  1. It’s completely normal to feel that way, as I’m sure you know, but survivor’s guilt is not a part of recovery and remission that gets enough attention. There may be people who think you should just be so happy that you’re better and that the disease is over just because the cancer has left your body. Good reminder that the journey continues even after the physical healing. As usual, this article was very heartfelt and honest. I always love getting your point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

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