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Survivor’s Guilt

Survivor’s Guilt

This is something that I really struggle with and it never seems to get any better. I’m fine and then out of nowhere BHAM. I hear that someone I was at school with has died from cancer.  Someone I knew through a cancer charity has died. Someone in the media spotlight has died.  Everyone dies.  It just makes me feel guilty that I’m still alive when the person died after a cancer diagnosis.

I don’t quite know where this guilt has come from. Is it inherent? Is it because I’m a middle child? Is it because I’m a therapist? It is because I’m more self-aware than others? I don’t know.

Guilt meets jealousy

I also know that I get upset that the person then receives attention for being dead. Truly ridiculous I know. Ludicrous. No one wants to die young. And then I sit feeling awful that I’m still alive and yet also jealous at all the attention they are getting. Where’s my recognition for all that I do? For getting out of bed every day? For smiling and saying I’m ok when I’m not, shen all I want to do is sit on the floor and cry? For getting on with my life the best way I can even though it’s so restricted? Where is my praise? Not that they know that all this is happening. Because they are no longer here. And I am.

Getting this across without making me sound like a truly hideous person will probably be quite challenging. Maybe I’m just too honest and voice what others think but don’t say aloud.

I have a cancerversary every year to celebrate all the good that has come from my diagnosis.  And there is so much. I wouldn’t change my diagnosis, I would definitely change things that have happened, but being told I had cancer has meant that I have done some amazing things. And I am shown every year by my friends and family how loved I am.  How special I am to them. I’m told it. I get cards that I treasure full of amazing words of how admired I am. That I’m an inspiration. But I still question that. I don’t take the praise that I crave. Because I whinge so much of the time.

A feeling that only others with cancer understand

To be guilty of my treatment working for me when it doesn’t for others is completely nonsensical.  No one benefits from a thought process like that, especially not me. Yet I can’t seem to stop it from happening. It doesn’t seem to get easier with time either. I feel this is just a bit of a ramble considering it’s an important topic and I know that others feel it too. When I have mentioned it when with others who have had or have cancer, there is a sense of agreement amongst us about it. When I mention it to those who don’t have and haven’t had cancer, they just think I’m a complete lunatic and can’t even begin to think why or how I could feel guilty for living.

Maybe it’s only a thing that you truly get when you become part of this ‘club’. Not as elite as it used to be with as cancer diagnoses on the rise. It’s not really a club that you want to be in either. But it has its pluses. Sometimes you can say a phrase like ‘survivor’s guilt’ and there is an understanding. No words need to be said. You just know that you aren’t alone with it.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Ann Harper moderator
    10 months ago

    I feel this way only when a close friend passes. I feel glad that I’m still here, but sad they’re not. Usually their diagnosis was after mine, meaning I’ve been given more time after diagnosis as well as beyond. Very enlightening post. Thank you for sharing.

  • bluchs
    1 year ago

    I agree with your analysis, that only those of us, with cancer, or those who have survived cancer, can fully understand Guilt?
    I was once in remission ( it lasted only 10 months), but I felt guilt that I had beaten this, while others had not, or so I thought at the time.
    My cancer returned with a vengeance, and now, I still feel guilt, that so many are worse off than I am?
    I was sitting in the lobby at the cancer center a few weeks ago, I saw a young boy ( maybe in his early 20’s ) I could see the fear in his face, and all I could feel was guilt, why would this be happening to this hansom young man??
    I feel guilty for putting my friends and family through this, watching me suffer!
    I feel guilty , every time I see on the news how people loose everything to cancer (financially) asking for help, or a fundraising for their survival?
    This is not a Club We choose, but we are in it, and You are so right, No Words Need to Be Said.
    We are not alone.
    So we will continue to struggle, and pray for this to somehow end, so no one else must suffer as we do, nor feel guilty for having cancer, or beating Cancer.

  • Ronni Gordon moderator
    1 year ago

    Through my blogging, I met several wonderful friends with similar conditions. All three of them died. I know what you mean about survivor’s guilt.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    1 year ago

    @ronnigordon – so sorry to hear. I can relate, there’s a few I’ve met that have lost their battle.

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