How I Overcame Survivor's Guilt
For many who leave Cancer behind them, "Survivor's Guilt" is a real feeling experienced. Read more on how one survivor approached this after finishing her treatment.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the post you have been waiting for. This is what encouraged and pushed me to start writing about my Cancer journey in the first place. A little thing called "survivor's guilt" — the feeling that results when you survive cancer yourself and feel personal blame or guilt when another person does not.
If you haven't had cancer, you may read that definition and think that it just doesn't make any sense at all. "Why would someone feel guilty for surviving?" Well, if you have had cancer, chances are that you are used to hearing about it, but that doesn't mean that you have to accept it as an inevitable part of this process. Before sharing more about my story, I'd just like to preface this by saying if you are experiencing survivor's guilt, you are not to blame and should not feel guilty for experiencing that guilt and I hope that you are able to find the peace that I found.
Yes, of course you are going to be sad and angry when a cancer friend doesn't survive – there will be a very wide range of emotions that you feel and nothing I say would ever make those any easier. But there is no room for guilt in those emotions. You cannot live with guilt. If you feel distraught every time you hear that someone passes away – whether you know them personally or not – and you did not, you are likely suffering from survivor's guilt. If you ever find yourself wishing that you had passed in the place of someone else, stop those thoughts immediately. That is a destructive attitude to have and not one that you should waste having. Remind yourself that you were not given a second chance at life just to lament the fact that you are alive.
I know that when I am done with all this, I am going to be proud. Every single scar on my body has become a glorified badge of honor. I love talking about my surgery or past chemo treatments, because yeah that was tough. Yes, it was hard. Yes, it hurt like hell. Yes, I cried. But no, no, no. I do not feel guilty for a bit of it.
To make sure that I never become a guilty survivor, I have this thing called "The List." At the top of this list, it says: "If you are reading this, it is because you have been given the gift of a second chance at life. Get busy living!" Then under that is a list of firsts (First dance, first drink, first movie, etc.) At this point in time, I've got about 100 things on that list and I have made a vow to myself to check them all off and write about each one in my journal. I started making it right before my sixth round of chemo. Not only does it give me something to look forward to, but on bad days I can read it and think about the magnificent blessing that my life is going to be three months from now, and it keeps me going.
When I finish treatment, I am going to hike, rock climb, bike, kayak. I am going to travel to places I've always wanted to go. I am going to finish school. I am going to do all the things that I couldn't do while I was in cancer treatment, and I am going to do them with a smile on my face, because I am a survivor.
My name is Sarah Kaitlin Tindell, and in about three months, I will officially be a cancer and chemo survivor, and though I may have bad days, you will never EVER hear me utter the words, "I feel guilty, because I am alive."
Remember, your victory over this disease does not discredit someone else's journey. As the great Scott Stuart has said, "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and by the manner in which you live."
What is your experience with Survivor's Guilt? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
- This is for Anyone Who's Ever Asked, "Why Did I Survive?"
- Dealing With Stress & Anxiety After Cancer
- Are We Ever Really "Cancer-Free"?
- Is it normal to still deal with survivors guilt, almost 10 years after being treated?
- For those that have made the transition to being a cancer survivor: How do you personally define what is your 'new normal?'
- Has anyone had to deal with anxiety and/or depression as a result of chemotherapy or steroids?