• Survivor's Guilt

    Asked by 19keightyfour on Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Survivor's Guilt

    Does anyone else suffer from a feeling of guilt for having survived cancer when so many others do not?

    8 Answers from the Community

    8 answers
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      I have heard of that. I think a survivor is what most people with a life-threatening cancer aspire to be. People who have endured treatment, and come out on the other end successful are huge inspirations for people who are still in treatment, or just finding out they have a cancer. They provide good reasons to hope for more time, give doctors more experience, and add more data to the cancer puzzle that will continue helping more people. All survival is temporary. Survival buys some time. That's it, even without cancer in the equation. Cancer only reminds you how short that time can be. When you realize that you are still dying, there is no reason to feel guilty. Everyone who is reading this is a survivor, whether they're still fighting cancer or not. We are cheering for everyone who makes it, and even seeking them out to see what they are doing right. Life is strange. You can make it through cancer, feel guilty about it, and then get hit by a hot air balloon flown by an Australian man dressed like a frog, drinking Gator Ade out of his backback through a 3 foot tube. Survival is one second and one day at a time. Enjoy it while it lasts.

      over 8 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      I understand that people can feel a whole range of different emotions, when they're diagnosed, during treatment, after treatment. The whole family, and your friends ride their own rollercoaster too. You might benefit from a support group, or meet-up group to share your experiences and talk about your emotions. Or you could channel some of that energy into staying involved and helping other people. Turn your survival into a new opportunity to make a difference in someone's life.

      over 8 years ago
    • attypatty's Avatar

      Dear 19keightyfour:
      Survivor's guilt is a real phenomenon and a real trap, as well. I had a friend - an almost 10 year survivor - whose breast cancer came back, suddenly and aggressively, metastasizing to her brain and liver. She died within two months. I am still grieving her death (which was in July) mostly because I miss her terribly, but also because some part of me sees the possibility of my future self in her. I have a friend who is now going through the last stages of lung cancer which is no longer treatable. I find it hard to face her, because we were both diagnosed at the same time and shared so much of the same journey, but now we know we won't have the same end. So it makes me feel bad for her and guilty for myself.
      But the worst thing about my "survivor's guilt" is that it focuses on me, it's selfish and rather despicable. I should grieve for my friend because I miss her - not diminish her fight because I fear the same could happen to me. I should support my friend because she needs whatever I can give to ease this part of her journey - not avoid her because she knows now that I will outlive her. Survivor's guilt is so self-centered. That's why it's useless. I tell myself to get over it. And when I focus on them, and not me, I find there's no room for such destructive guilt,
      Fight On,

      over 8 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      No I don't. Would you feel guilty for not getting run over by a car today because somebody else get run over by a car? We are all going to die some time from something. As Freebird said, all survival is temporary. Why diminish the quality of your life by feeling guilty that you haven't died yet? That makes no sense to me.

      over 8 years ago
    • abrub's Avatar

      Absolutely. When I was diagnosed in 2007, I met a young mother, diagnosed the same week as I. My kids are grown, and don't need me in the same way as her young daughter. K was dead within 2 years, and I am in full remission, and thriving. There is some survivor's guilt, the feeling of how lucky I am compare to my young friend, or compared to so many others diagnosed with the same cancer as I. I continue to live my life to its fullest, and I try to give back to the cancer community in any way that I can.

      over 8 years ago
    • MelRobelo's Avatar

      Yes. I often feel...not necessarily "guilt", but definitely a sense of questioning WHY I survived when so many others do not. I know people die every day. I am grateful that I survived. BUT...that doesn't stop me from feeling confused, overwhelmed, a little guilty at times, because the picking and choosing of who lives and dies seems so random and unfair. I was "lucky" enough to get a cancer with a high survival rate. The odds for me were always 90% or greater. I was in chemo with people who knew their odds of DYING were 75% or more. I mean....why is life so unfair? And why me? It's hard to comprehend.

      over 8 years ago
    • WonderKitty's Avatar

      I have to say that I mostly feel greatful that I was "blessed" with a type of cancer that was, for all intents and purposes, cureable. I know it has a chance of coming back, but for the most part I can live my life cancer free. I feel greatful that I was not as sick as most, and that I have recovered faster than some.

      over 8 years ago
    • DaveWaz's Avatar


      Hope all is well. It reminded me that we posted an article this week on Survivor's guilt and how WhatNexters themselves have learned to cope with it. Perhaps you will find it helpful if you are still struggling with those emotions.


      Best wishes,

      over 7 years ago

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