Coping With Feelings of Blame When You Have Cancer

by Brittany McNabb

It is not uncommon for people with cancer to place blame on themselves for their diagnosis. Some feel they have done something to cause or deserve their cancer. It is important to know that the feeling of blame that can come with being diagnosed with cancer is irrational and that there are ways to cope. 

Coping With Feelings Of Blame When You Have Cancer

In a Guide for Patients and Families After Diagnosis, the American Cancer Society says, "You did not cause your cancer. We don’t yet know what causes all cancers. We do know that there are certain things we call risk factors that affect your chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors can be changed and others can’t."

Here are some common feelings of blame seen from WhatNexters... I blamed myself because... I was a smoker. I ignored my health. I didn't go to the doctor soon enough. I was overweight. I went to tanning beds my whole life. I didn't have the strength to fight.


Whether it is a life choice, bad habit, feeling of weakness, or simply having no one else to blame, blame can come in many different forms. What's important is focusing on what can be done now. Many WhatNexters resolve that all they can do is focus on the present, fight the cancer, and move forward with healthy habits. Here are 5 ways to cope with feelings of blame.

1. Cut bad habits.

It is never too late to start living a healthy life. If you feel you have not always kept healthy habits, start now. For example, quit smoking, start exercising more, try to maintain a healthy diet, and practice safe sun habits.

Get Rid Of Bad Habits

2. Don't dwell on the "Why did this happen to me?"

"I sometimes wonder about life choices I have made, and if they brought me to this but I don't dwell on it. The past is the past, now is my reality and I am looking to the future and I believe I will win." - GENMAR47

3. Focus on fighting the cancer.

"I initially blamed myself for my lung cancer-having smoked most of my life, but, life is way to short to dwell on the negatives. Today, I try to stay in the moment and focus on shrinking these tumors. And, whatever happens I know God will care for me and guide me through this journey." - bobrn

4. Realize what you can control in the future without trying to change the past.

"I did feel that some choices I made, with healthy intentions might have contributed to my cancer. But the docs say we just don't know. It could have been something I was exposed to before birth, being born a tiny preemie of less than three pounds, or a complex combination of many factors. I just decided that blaming myself didn't contribute to my healing or my life going forward, so I elected not to look back. I only can control so much, and the past isn't one of those things!" - TXHills

5. Tell yourself it is not your fault.

If you are struggling with feelings of blame, make sure you are telling yourself that it is not your fault. If you do not feel like you can overcome these feelings on your own, talk to your doctor or make an appointment with a counselor that can help coach you through these feelings.

Cancer Is Not Your Fault

6. Pay attention to your health.

Always go to doctor appointments and routine health tests. Early detection is a cancer-fighting tool!

There is not an exact answer of why anyone gets cancer. The best we can do with the information we have is try to live a healthy lifestyle. For more information on the basics of cancer visit the American Cancer Society.

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