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survivor's guilt

valsatcamp
Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2004

Hi, I am a 22 year old long term survivor of childhood liver cancer. I'm wondering if there is anyone out there who feels guilty for making it when so many others don't. I've met so many people who have died from the disease, some even from my same diagnosis. I feel that it's not fair that I'm still here enjoying life when they didn't get that chance.

txmorning73
Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2004

Hi, my name is Dawn, I had Hodgkins lymphoma, three times, and a Bone Marrow Transplant in 93. Since then I have gone into the medical field as a Respiratory Therapist. I work in ICU's and see people die a lot, it bothers me most when I know it's of cancer, especially Hodgkins. On the unit where I got my transplant, all the other patients I met and had as friends, none of them are living now, they all died, and I am still here. Tonight I had a 22 year old patient who died. I can go most days ok now, being 10 years out, but things like this well, they get to me. It is very hard for me to work the unit where I was treated, because it is so hard to see someone die of what I lived through. And, everyone says I lived for a reason, what reason? because I had children, my patient tonight had a child, why couldn't she have lived? What makes me so special? I am sorry, just realized this was a sight for Adult survivors of childhood cancers. Well at least you know you are not alone in feeling guilty.

photoman
Posts: 4
Joined: Mar 2004

I've never felt guilty for surviving. I have always celebrated my survival. Call it blind faith I guess, but I have always thought that there is some reason for me being here. I haven't become some big famous person or saved the world or found a cure for cancer, but I know that God needed me here for some purpose. I might not ever know what that purpose is!

I do know that I think of myself as someone who can help others with cancer and I've done a lot of that. Maybe that's enough?

I would just say, Dawn, don't spend too much time wondering about it. Celebrate your life! Thank God every day (if you're into that)and do what you can to help others!

David
Wilm's Tumor 1964

DOLSIM
Posts: 3
Joined: Mar 2004

Hi Dawn, I too felt guilty. I was 15 years out of Hodgkins and one relapse after a 3b diagnosis at 21. In January of 2003 I thought I could help someone else and be part of a study at Dana Farber only to find out I had Breast Cancer because of the mantle radiation. I have since had a bilateral mastectomy and added 4 more rounds of chemo to my resume after the 12 I had for Hodgkins. I still have twinges of guilt, however I now realize I can help more people with my experience of surviving. :)

suan
Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2004

Your not alone at all. I also question the reasoning behind my suvival. I had lost a friend who had the same cancer as me.She had 2 kids and a husband. At the time I was 22, (this was 10 years ago)still in college and partying everyday. That didn't make sense to me. How me, the party girl was chosen over this wonderful loving mother. This really bothered me. But I look at it this way, Who knows what helped me in beating this cancer. I would love to contribute this to my doctor, and that I was very positive with a lot of hope. But realistically that doesnt make sense because other people who were in the same situation as me didn't make it,and they were just as positive as me and had the same kind of treatment as me. It's not fair in any which way. I think of it this way. Some of us will die by cancer and some of us will die of any other hundreds of diseases or accidents. We had a chance to share our stories and successes with others and pass on our wisdom. I still sometimes get bummed, but it wasn't our time to go and we need to make the most of our lives while we are still here, and live each day to the fullest, and remember those who aren't here.

ALMS
Posts: 4
Joined: Mar 2004

I've been free of cancer 28 years, thankfully, and yes early on I had moments of "why did I survive and not the others". At first, I used to speak with children who had what the form of cancer I had, and it was hard to see them not make it and just the look their parents eyes had was enough for me not to want to talk about it, so I went many years not talking about it to anyone except a study that I'm involved with and now with the CSN and of course my family and firends. I'm not embarrased that I survived, and all of us survivors should come out more and speak up about that not everyone dies from Cancer. I personally see that there is a reason why I'm here, and I thank God every day for giving me the chance to be here. Remember the saying "One day at a time"!

Julie_Tucson
Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2004

Hi. I definitely know how you feel. I had cancer when I was about 3 (I am 19 now). While receiving treatment I became friends with a girl who was about a year older than me. We had different types of cancer, but we were both going through Chemo. at the same time. She ended up not making it, and I have always felt guilty or wondered why I made it and she didn't. I can definitely relate to you. I guess my way of dealing with that is by trying to prove everyday that I survived for a reason by actively and aggressively pursuing a college education as well as volunteering and working at the American Cancer Society.

cheryl58
Posts: 4
Joined: Apr 2002

I've recently loss another friend to cancer & I'm having a hard time in dealing with survivor's guilt. I had Leukemia with only a 10% survival rate. That was 9 yrs ago when I was 36 yrs old. It seems like when someone around me dies from this horrible diease, I find myself feeling guilt & sadden by the loss of such good people. To combat this guilt, I've decided I will see if others has the same problem & seek suggestions from them. I also want to read any articles I can find about it. Surely with education comes less guilt.

Orly
Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2004

Do you know of any good articles or books about survivor's guilt?

sorcharose
Posts: 17
Joined: Oct 2002

The book, Childhood Cancer Survivors- A Practical Guide to Your Future, By: Nancy Keene, Wendy Hobbie and Kathy Ruccione, isbn# 1-56592-460-6. The chapter on "Emotions", page 43.. is on survival guilt. It's a book I've gotten a lot of use out of and highly recommend.

1984to1994
Posts: 14
Joined: Oct 2004

I know how you feel. I am a two time childhood ALL Leukemia survivor now in remission for 10 years at the age 22. I only remember bits and pieces of those times and people. Some of the kids I met I know have died others I just wonder. Sorry for the rambling. Yes I do understand.

Ken
Shadow2137@hotmail.com

AuthorUnknown
Posts: 1564
Joined: May 2006

I'm Darryll and I live in California. I was diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma of the left thigh at 15 years old and now am 35. This was a rare cancer dianosis at the time. I had a lot of emotional and relation problems when I was growing up but now married. I have worked hard to beat my cancer and my other problems and am doing well. I became a Paramedic and now am a police officer. I recently found out my cousin died of stomach cancer. I had also experienced being a survivor in the hospiatl where other s have died. I hope you beat all of your problems. good luck!!

srisko's picture
srisko
Posts: 34
Joined: Apr 2008

I'm a 20 year survivor of ALL at age 25 and I feel guilty about my survivorship as well. I volunteer for the ACS Boston Hope Lodge and some of the guests who have stayed with us pass away and I feel so bad about, especially when they're children.

ajadestar's picture
ajadestar
Posts: 7
Joined: Jul 2010

I had cancer when I was 2. Im 29 now. I also feel guilty. I feel selfish to have pride and voice it. Feels like Im thinking about myself to much.

Marin05
Posts: 2
Joined: Dec 2010

I have a stage 3 lymphoma. I was diagnosed recently using cancer blood test and other tests. I hope to be cured soon. I wish that you cancer survivors should not feel guilty for making it through. No one is to blame if one was not able to make it. Instead of feeling guilty, just try to give support to those cancer patients like me out there.

FunnyFace's picture
FunnyFace
Posts: 15
Joined: Oct 2008

Hi Marin05...sorry to hear of your that you have this crazy thing called cancer. I don't know what to tell you. It's a hard road to travel but don't give up. Keep your heart full of hope and faith. Believe in miracles...because they do happen. I am living proof!! I was dx with bonecancer when I was 13 and I am now 35 (cancer free ever since)!

PEACE

Live Laugh Love
Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2011

Keep strong you are an amazing person and I hope you too will become a survivor and look back in triumph!

aliciamp22
Posts: 5
Joined: May 2011

Hello,
I was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia when i was 15 years old, 2 week before my birthday. That is one present i could have gone without. I am 22 years old now and i am on my 4th year of being cancer free in July. It wasn't so hard for me while i was going through it because i did what i had to do to survive. Life after cancer on the other hand has not been easy on me. I always have to think what are the long term effects chemo. I am already seeing side effects from the chemo. I had to put 2years of my life on hold without working or trying to figure out what am i going to do after if i made it. I missed out on high school and making friends. My friends didn't know how to have a friend that has cancer. I have survivor guilt. I have someone close to me who lost her father and i couldn't see why he died and i didn't. I went to visit a child that had a tumor. He didnt know what was happening to him and just kept going to treatment. No one could explain to him what was going on or why he had to go through it...he didnt survive and i couldnt help but feel guilt. I do not know my purpose in life or why i survived but i live everyday as if it was my last and i am grateful for surviving. its just difficult to see people go through what you have and were not able to make it specially children, mom and dads. No one tells you the after effect of cancer when you are going through it or how to get over it.

If anyone has gone through similar things as me please email me
afoxdattalkz@hotmail.com
(yes its a still email address...my sister made it for me when i was in middle school)

EmilyRTT
Posts: 5
Joined: Jun 2011

Hi, my name is Emily. I don't want to sound strange, but I am so thankful there is someone else out there who feels the same way I do. I was diagnosed with pNET (Ewing's Sarcoma) when I was 14. My first night at the hospital for chemo, I met J who had osteosarcoma. We became best friends on the pedi floor. I got better with treatment, and she didn't. J died a few days after her 16th birthday. I am now 21, a student at Texas State University, and studying Radiation Therapy. I never felt like I needed counseling, until I was in college and realized that no one understood what it was like to be a cancer survivor. My friends tell me it's great that I lived, but sometimes I wish I could have traded places with J.

I'll email you, if you'd like. eh1210@txstate.edu or emilyenjoysmusic@yahoo.com

- Emily

TJ74's picture
TJ74
Posts: 18
Joined: Aug 2011

It says somewhere in the bible (I'm paraphrasing here) that you can't go through something that is uncommon to man. What is common to man though? A few people, lots of people or everyone? When I was 16 I was diagnosed with cancer and given three months to live but I wasn't sad. The opposite actually. I was looking forward to going to heaven away from this painful place. But God had other plans for me. I went through all the chemo/radiation, had a relapse, had more chemo and then a bone marrow transplant. That was 20 years ago. One person, while I was on the bmt ward, died while I was in. My mom worked with a lady who's son needed a transplant and aft he talked to me about it cause I live, took it and died. Shortly afterwards I became close with someone who was in the middle of a transplant. He called me one night at midnight and told me excitedly that God had healed him. He came over shortly after and stayed the night. He was so sick. Two weeks later he died. That broke my heart. I have had many people, theosophists and doctors ask me why I wasn't grateful that I lived. I don't expect anyone to understand. I would have given my life for either of my friends but sometimes I feel guilty that I'm not happy that I survived. Is that common to man? There are people out there who understand, they are just few and far beyond.

lilmel22
Posts: 3
Joined: Sep 2013

I know exactly what you are saying Emily. I was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor when I was ten and had a lot of problems trying to adjust back to normal life after my experience. I lost all the friends I thought I had and was treated differently by everyone. People either felt sorry for me or didn't know how to act around me. I transferred high schools thinking it would get better and my new solution was to act like I never even had cancer to begin with. If I didn't tell anyone, no one could treat me any differently. But as all of us survivors know, there is no way to just move on from such a traumatic experience and act like it never happened. You are left with so many emotional, physical and mental scars, not to mention the late effects that pop up from all the treatments. There is just no way that our experiences with cancer don't forever stay a big part of us. I ended up going to a counselor when I got to college. Honestly, it didn't help though because she wasn't a survivor. The only thing I have found really helps is finding other people that have been through the same thing and REALLY get it. Being able to lean on eachother for support makes all the difference in the world. 

 

I feel survivor's guilt all the time because I have since become a pediatric oncology nurse. When one of my patients dies, I go through so many different emotions, one of which is "what made me any better than them that I got to live?" Don't get me wrong, I am so incredibly thankful that I am alive and that God has chosen to use me in such a big way. Being able to take care of kids going through the same thing I went through as a kid has been life changing for me and it just reminds me over and over again how truly blessed I am. It still doesn't change the guilt I feel when one of these amazing kids passes. Honestly, I don't know if anything will ever change that either...

Crazysony
Posts: 2
Joined: May 2011

It is very noble to think about the others but you must not feel guilty for anyone destiny.As a doctor,I've seen a lot of cases of childhood cancer and I had pacients who won the fight against this terrible disease but also who didn't.We are giving our best every day in order to cure them but we are not God.This is what everyone need to have clear:God is the only one who has the right to choose who lives and who don't.If He gave you another chance you must enjoy it and live your life without feeling guilty.

TJ74's picture
TJ74
Posts: 18
Joined: Aug 2011

I completely agree, it's God choice! The reason I feel guilty is because I'm not so positive about being chosen to live and that I never chose to go through what I went through. Maybe today things are different and doctors and the system is better than it was years ago. I can tell you that with out a doubt, that if I were to go through what I went through again in exactly the same circumstance with all the same surroundings and no support systems that I had, I would feel the same. It was a horrific experience for me. I know that anyone who went through what I did, all alone with no support form the medical system, anyone would have come out traumatized like I was. Our choices, especially when we are kids, are totally based on our upbringing that shaped our personality and the support system we have around us. We do not chose our circumstances, weather we live or die or the long-term side affects we will live with if we survive. I have come through allot of years of suffering when God could have easily let me die. I'm not totally convinced He has a purpose for me or why He let me live when it's been a life of isolation, miss-understanding, loneliness and fear. I would challenge anyone to go through this or let there child go through this on their own and see how they would come out. That is great that there is all the support out there that there is, but I am a person to and what I went through was real (even though its seems like a bad dream). It would be nice to get a little validation from the medical field. If it is truly God who chooses, why even have such awful treatments. Is it the doctors who create and administer the poison and then God who decides who will survive from it with whatever survival skills they have that they can only get from Him? Is the doctors' job done after a patient survives and then is sent home to live with chronic disabling conditions? I feel guilty because I can't have a more positive outlook on a life that has been extremely difficult. There maybe a little anger there too lol.

amyintexas
Posts: 4
Joined: Aug 2011

Thank you for saying it is God's choice. I am just 10 months after my last chemo treatment and all signs point to a cure for me. A dear friend (we became close after her diagnosis) was only 3 months behind me and we both had the same prognosis. We have been a major support for each other during this terrible time. Her cancer has come back, and very aggressive. She is already receiving hospice care. I am so confused as to how this could happen and so quickly. I feel terribly guilty that my life is moving on, I feel healthier than ever, and she is losing hers. How do I face her family?

amyintexas
Posts: 4
Joined: Aug 2011

Thank you for saying it is God's choice. I am just 10 months after my last chemo treatment and all signs point to a cure for me. A dear friend (we became close after her diagnosis) was only 3 months behind me and we both had the same prognosis. We have been a major support for each other during this terrible time. Her cancer has come back, and very aggressive. She is already receiving hospice care. I am so confused as to how this could happen and so quickly. I feel terribly guilty that my life is moving on, I feel healthier than ever, and she is losing hers. How do I face her family?

amyintexas
Posts: 4
Joined: Aug 2011

Thank you for saying it is God's choice. I am just 10 months after my last chemo treatment and all signs point to a cure for me. A dear friend (we became close after her diagnosis) was only 3 months behind me and we both had the same prognosis. We have been a major support for each other during this terrible time. Her cancer has come back, and very aggressive. She is already receiving hospice care. I am so confused as to how this could happen and so quickly. I feel terribly guilty that my life is moving on, I feel healthier than ever, and she is losing hers. How do I face her family?

amyintexas
Posts: 4
Joined: Aug 2011

Thank you for saying it is God's choice. I am just 10 months after my last chemo treatment and all signs point to a cure for me. A dear friend (we became close after her diagnosis) was only 3 months behind me and we both had the same prognosis. We have been a major support for each other during this terrible time. Her cancer has come back, and very aggressive. She is already receiving hospice care. I am so confused as to how this could happen and so quickly. I feel terribly guilty that my life is moving on, I feel healthier than ever, and she is losing hers. How do I face her family?

shereenjay's picture
shereenjay
Posts: 12
Joined: Sep 2009

I'm here because I was trying to get any support a little over a yr when my father passed.

Honestly I've never had cancer, but I was very sick after I gave birth to my son and had 5% chance of living, long story short the flu started it all, a lot in between, and septic shock was the last thing that almost took my life. To make it short I was in a coma for 2 months and didn't have much of a chance in the ICU. That was 3 yrs ago before my 21st birthday, and I still ask why God let me live but not my father.

To this day I feel guilty for not being happy without my dad nor being grateful. Sometiems I feel it would have been easier to not lived then to live with all the pysical/emotional/mental issues the coma has caused.

I don't know what cancer feels like, but I know the guilt. Maybe someone can help me with being grateful for my time here. To me life doesn't seem as quality as it used to.

Alg1001
Posts: 1
Joined: May 2013

Hi, my name is Amanda. I am currently in my 15th year of remission. When I was younger I had ALL and was cured. Never did I feel guilty for surviving, i always saw it as a great thing. But recently I have found myself with some guilt for surviving, I wonder why did I? But then at the same time I'm extremely grateful and realize there must have been a reason why I survived. I think I survived so I could live on and help othersno because of my cancer I am who I am. Without of having it I don't know who I would have been. But I think surviving it has made me a better person and because of it I am going to school for art therapy and will one day going back to the hospital I was diagnosed at to help kids like me. If I hadn't had cancer and survived I probably wouldn't have this same mindset or inspiration. Although I feel guilt for surviving I feel more grateful and thankful for all it has given me. 

phrase53115's picture
phrase53115
Posts: 2
Joined: Sep 2013

I have  also had  the  same problem  with feeling guilt. I lost  My Boyfrined to cancer.. I am also a ALL  survior  so i thing this  is  why its  so hard for me to get over his passing.

Boo3265
Posts: 9
Joined: Sep 2013

I know it's sad to think that where you survived there are plenty who didn't make it. I agree with those who said that it's God will. there's a time for everyone if not sooner than later, it's all in Gods hands.
If you want to feel less guilty don't just think you survived, think who you survived for, you family, kids, friends who are still there. There are people who probably went head over heels to make sure nothing happens to you when you got diagnosed. I know there are those who you met along the journey who were going through the same pain that you were but think of yourselves as hope for those who are going through it now. You survivors are the reason that I am here now, just looking for people who can tell me that I shouldn't worry cause they were there and they made it. 
I think your life isn't just a blessing for you but for your family and for people like me. I'm not a cancer patient but my father has been disgnosed for astrocytoma and just the thought of it brings tears to me and when I talk to people who have beat cancer it gives me hope and trust me that is your gift to humanity. Being a family memeber of a patient I can tell you that your survival has brought joy to your loved ones, I simply can't wait for the day my father is up on his own two feet and we are past all this nightmare.
So don't feel guilty, it's even okay to feel proud because you are not just here for you, you are here for many reasons, one of them being restoring faith in others who have lost hope.
I can't take away the guilt but I hope this helped a little. 

Boo.

Aquagirl18
Posts: 45
Joined: Apr 2003

Hi Boo what you said really got me thinking and it does help in changing how it feels to have survived, perhaps you are right.  I didn't think about the other side of things- that we are not alone- we are not just here becausue we are here- people love us and we have been support for them. Not only here for our families and friends but also people we don't really know.  If I can be of some help to someone who is struggling then that makes a big difference and i have to hang on to that.  Thanks for posting.   

 

Aquagirl18
Posts: 45
Joined: Apr 2003

Hi I'm 35 had Neuroblastoma at 13mths and been thinking about the big question "Why" at different times in my life.  I see and hear stories here, in the paper and on the news of different cancers and how some survive and others lose their battles.  I sometimes feel sad when I think I have been so blessed and lucky to have been a survivor and gotten to where I am today when others especially children don't get their chance.  I have lost 2 uncles to different kinds of cancer years ago and then my dad to another in 2011.  It isn't fair but I don't really know the answer on why this happens or how to get past asking the "Why" and feeling guilty.  All I can say is sometimes we can't choose our battles and they they choose us and we just don't always have control.  Also it helps to think that they are in a better place and living a whole new kind of life.  

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