Life after cancer like I’ve said before is sometimes worse than going through treatment but survivor’s guilt is something that I never understood. I’ve heard about it a lot in the cancer community but it never really hit me until it happened to me. When you have cancer you connect with a lot of other people so you create a bond. That bond is so special because you get what each other is going through or have gone through, there’s no other one like it.
When I was initially diagnosed I wondered “why me?” but after I battled through all the chemo and stem cell transplant and came out the other end then heard my consultant say “you’re in remission” then heard others who were battling at the same time as me but didn’t make it I thought “why not me?”. What did I do that made me survive and others didn’t. It’s not fair. I fought cancer and won so I should feel elated, thankful and for the most part I do however now and again there’s one emotion that overshadows all of these and that’s survivor’s guilt.
Whenever I see children and babies who fight so hard but then see that they didn’t survive and they had all their life in front of them and then there’s me crying at the thought of their families who have lost a massive part of their family and I really couldn’t imagine what it feels like to lose a child to cancer or any disease for that matter but I’m like why couldn’t it have been me?
There are so many friends I’ve made over social media who I’ve seen pass away because of the dreaded C word. The treatments have stopped working or there’s been nothing else they can do and when you read something like that I can’t tell you the emotion and the heartbreak. The times my friends have said they are relapsing and there’s nothing I can do, it hurts. It really hurts.
Coping with survivor’s guilt
Acknowledge your guilt. I suppose the first step in coping with survivors guilt is to acknowledge that the feelings are real. This is something I didn’t accept for a long time but your feelings are valid and there’s nothing wrong with feeling the way you do.
Reach out. Sometimes just trying to express how you feel can be hard especially when not everyone understands but there’s always someone who will know how you are feeling. A lot of my cancer friends get all of my frustrations and feelings so please reach out if you’re struggling, even just a simple “hi” can spark a conversation.
Allow yourself to grieve. Even if you don’t know someone personally you should still give yourself time to come to terms with what’s happened. That sadness that comes with survivor’s guilt can be overwhelming so give yourself some time to grieve.
Accept that there are no answers. I’m always asking myself why I’m still in remission while others are dying or relapsing from cancer but honestly there’s no answer. You have to acknowledge that there may never be an answer for that question and accept that sometimes life and cancer don’t make sense.
Act of Kindness. If you’ve lost a friend to cancer or just someone who you were close to sometimes a little act of kindness can make the feeling of loosing them a better memory and may make it a little less painful.
Give back. I know personally how giving something back to the cancer community can help with survivor’s guilt. I set up a little page on Facebook to raise awareness and money for blood cancer now and this helps me concentrate on giving back but honestly it doesn’t have to be something massive, just something like maybe volunteer at an event or donate a few pounds a month if you can!
I try to take each day as it comes as I know each day is a gift. The past no longer exists and there’s nothing I can do to change it so what’s important is the here and now but If you are struggling with survivor’s guilt please don’t hide yourself away, reach out and I can promise that taking to someone will help a lot more than keeping all your feelings inside.