Hi all, This possibly seems like a ridiculous question but does anyone else suffer from survivor guilt? It seems to me that anyone I have known who has been diagnosed with cancer, at 50 or younger,that has required chemo and/or radiation hasn't made it except me. While I rejoice in the fact that I am doing so well, I found it particularly difficult when a very good friend died 12 months ago, 2 months after I stopped treatment. He was my "chemo buddy" and ran a 2.50 marathon before being diagnosed with industrial related lung cancer. I often have difficulty trying to understand why he and 3 other friends haven't made it. I don't feel that I am anything special, or at least no more than they were. If anyone else has experienced this, could you let me know if it is a common thought or am I just overly sensitive and as my husband says, I think too much. Samex
8 Comments
Frequent Contributor
Artist-in-Recovery has posted a fantastic poem on this site. It's about all the rationalisations for why she got cancer. It should be on her blog page. The point is there's more than likely no reason why you got cancer. If you have found one, then you have made it up. I agree with your husband. Kiss him. H
0 Kudos
Contributor
I get survivor guilt really badly sometimes when I post stuff on websites like this. I've met quite a few people on the web who are in the final stages of their lives and when I post stuff about challenges I'm having getting on with my life I feel like a real twat. When I speak to people in that situation, I really do feel lucky in so many ways. And I am. When I'm surrounded by other people my age in 'normal' situations I don't get survivor guilt or feel so lucky. I'm a black sheep now amongst my peers for facing things they dare each other to toy with. I'm still asked why I got cancer, 'surely something did it?' they say (i.e. its got to be your fault). No-one likes my answer of 'it was bad luck, ask my oncologist if you want'. I'm sure none of them feel guity for not having had it though. The fact is that no-one should feel guilty for surviving cancer. I think we should feel sad for those who didn't make it and those who aren't doing well, but its out of our control. Still, I think I'll always feel guity when I talk to someone worse off than me.
0 Kudos
Frequent Contributor
stecec You've expressed that very nicely. "Facing things they dare each other to toy with" - nails it. But, in relation to people who are in palliative care, for example, are you sure it's guilt? Or is it just the awareness of relative fortune? I'm interested in the jump you describe from one to the other. I can revisit my own terror if I have to. Knowing that allows me to think that I'm relatively fortunate, as in the end the drugs have delivered me some sort of a future. Given that, I honestly don't feel guilt when living or posting this. You said: "No-one should feel guilty for surviving cancer". I would rather leave the "should" out of it and say "I don't feel guilty for surviving cancer". I don't lack compassion, I just don't want to absorb what I see as a negative feeling, if it's not honestly what I feel. Thanks to samex too for broaching this. H
0 Kudos
Contributor
Hey harker, This is the first time I've openly admitted this. For whatever reason, guilt has always been part of my character and I've become increasingly aware of this as I've matured, but having cancer has truly opened my eyes to it. I think it comes from deep seated insecurities and feelings of inferiority that I've had for as long as I remember. These issues have masifested in various ways throughout my life such as submissivenes, conflict avoidance and of course, guilt. When it comes to the guilt I described earlier, I really do feel that sometimes. I find I can easily talk myself around it, because I can also relive the terror at any moment, but its something that comes out of my subconcious that I can't help. I went into treatement trying to please everyone around me, at least at first. Then it dawned on me that it was my journey and that my feelings about it were more important as anyone elses. For me, it was a big realisation. I've since realised that applies to most things in my life. Steve
0 Kudos
Contributor
Interestingly I to feel a glimmer of suvivor guilt, usually as Steve says when I am talking with people in the last stages of their life and I am b****hing about things that are probably pretty menial to them. But I also realise my journey is not less significant and that although I have been clear for 3 years I to could experience reoccurance. I think Steve struck on some pretty important issues the most important being a feeling of insuperior to others, or a lack of self confidence. Those of us who have these issues tend to always feel guilt as the first port of call. People often find ways of blaming us or others for someone's cancer the truth is there are many theories out there. Remember no one deserves it, its not fair for anyone to experience it and we all have the right to survive without guilt. XX
0 Kudos
Deceased
Hi Everyone I have no sense of guilt that I am still alive - rather a sense of thankfulness and wonderment. However, at the time I was diagnosed there was a spooky aspect to it. I worked with an office in a long corridor. The peron in the third office along was diagnosed with cancer. A month later the person in the sixth office was diagnosed with cancer. A month after that, I, who inhabited the ninth office, was diagnosed with cancer. Collectively we went along and told the peron in the twelth office that they had better move!! Seriously - it was just one of those coincidences that plague us in life - all different cancers. However, the three of us were not only work colleagues, we often discussed the deep and meaningfuls of life. We all retired early about the same time and sixth office went interstate. We kept in touch and one day I rang to be told that the oncologist had said there was no more that could be done and that they could expect to die in weeks rather than months. We rang each other weekly and I would joke that if we hadn't managed to make contact by Wednesday I would start looking in the obits of the local paper. They died after several months. I found myself dong was what they had done - put my house in order. Do the things that needed to be done so my family would be OK after I had gone. Even though I was in the middel of a long, therapy free, period. So I didn't feel guilt, but it did effect me. Cheers Sailor The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore - Vincent Van Gogh
0 Kudos
Regular Contributor
Thanks guys. I guess it does relate to the idea of your overall self confidence and maybe broaches the idea put forward somewhere else that are there too many of us who are young (and many of you guys are so much younger than me) getting cancer. My parents didn't seem to lose as many frineds as I have to cancer in their 50's or younger. I shall no go out and enjoy tomorrow guilt free!! Woohoo Samex
0 Kudos
Occasional Contributor
When my little sister, aged 20, was diagnosed with terminal cancer she told me my parents had said to her that I felt guilty I survived my cancer and she would not. I told Kay I never once felt guilty that I survived cancer. What did make me feel bad was that she seemed to be like the proverbial lamb waiting to be slaughtered while I was the intrepid fox who would have gnawed off my own leg to survive. I felt guilty that I was able to deal with my illness with so much more will than she could ever muster, and I wished she could because that WILL is what kept me alive and I wished that much for her for at least as long as possible. She didn't take that view and continued to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner and died not too long after. It was her choice, she made it and died the way she wanted -- a big lump of ice cream 🙂 That was a learning curve for me. It was difficult for me to stand by and watch and accept that she had made up her mind to die. Then my good friend Catherine, having just been given the five year all clear from our oncologist, was diagnosed with another primary bc that had already spread to her bones. She was told it is just a matter of quality of life vs quantity now. While many of her friends have disappeared, I have chosen to be by her side all the way. It's very difficult because I keep talking in terms of having a future and choices (as one should), and then I realise what I have said and feel guilty. Then I prod myself and say, 'Just because it may appear I have a future right now doesn't mean I do!' Moments before Catherine had a future now she didn't. Life is like that. Any one of us could be hit by a bus tomorrow. I could live in guilt, it would be rather easy, but I choose to accept the moment for what it is and be thankful I am still here contributing to life. It's the people who are left behind that feel pain - not the ones who have died. On that note, I must dash out. I have to go to Brighton seasisde to get some clothes for my holiday. I hope what I've said makes sense - I was rushing to get it out. No doubt it will make somebody angry or upset... LLx
0 Kudos
Post new blog
Talk to a health professional
Cancer Council support and information 13 11 20Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm
Cancer Information and Support

Online resources and support

Access information about support services, online resources and a range of other materials.

Caring for someone with cancer?

Find out what resources and support services are available to assist you.