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Coping with Survivor's guilt.....

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

Any tips that get you thru?

Hugs, Kathi

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

I really don't have tips because I am not "done" with treatment. But I can relate in that I have been dealing with this for getting close to 7 years and many have had very similar DX and treatments and they are not still around. I do not feel guilty at all though for having gotten as far as I have. I consider myself to be part lucky and part making wise decisions as far as treatment options went. I also was able to pick a great medical team that I owe so much to. Without their skill and knowledge and my strength and attitude, I would not be here so long after my DX. I think it would be great if you could look at the decisions that you made and why you made them. That might help you with understanding why you made it.

I also am a firm believer in counseling. It's helped me a lot and continues to help me.
I hope this is of some help...

Marcia527's picture
Posts: 2748
Joined: Jul 2006

I don't have survivor's guilt. Maybe because other things happened to divert attention. Like developing Parkinson's. This diagnosis was three years after breast cancer diagnosis. It's a daily struggle.

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Betsydoglover's picture
Posts: 1256
Joined: Jul 2005

Hi Kathi and all -

Oddly, I am also in the "no guilt" camp - well more like "not so much guilt". I totally do not understand why my stage IV crc experience has gone so well, BUT I have significant arthritis and when I see my oncologist every 3 weeks (getting Avastin only every 3 weeks), I tell her that cancer has never impacted my life in the way arthritis has. Of course, I am StageIV and still get nervous with every scan - arthritis isn't going to kill me. With the Stage IV sword hanging over my head, there is not much room for guilt, even after 5+ years.

The odd thing for me is that I have never been able to accept the seriousness of my disease - I told my onc that I was in "healthy denial" back in 2005 when I was diagnosed. She told me she had never seen anyone in less denial than me. But, she missed it. Anyway, somehow I cope and I have to limit my reading of other stage IV end of life stories.

Not sure how the rest of you cope with engaging with current cancer folks vs avoiding the engagement in order to keep your own sanity.

diag. Stage IV, 5/05, liver met
lap sigmoid colectomy, 6/05
6 cycles Xeloda/oxaliplatin/Avastin (NED after 2)
11/08 9x13mm right lower lobe lung nodule; removed via VATS 4/09
6 cycles Xeloda + Avastin,
NED (PET every 3 mo)
Currently on Avastin only

christinecarl's picture
Posts: 545
Joined: Sep 2009

I am new to this, dx in Dec 2008. My mom died from colon cancer May 2006. I do not get why I have done so well and she did not. She really was the better of the two of us. :(

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

We all respond differently to cancer and to treatments. That is why it's such a tough disease to fight. What works for one person may or may not work for another. I'm sorry you lost your Mom. You know cancer doesn't care how nice a person is. If that were the case there would be a lot more people with cancer and more than likely, a lot fewer people who are on this board would have been hit with it.
Guilt is something that I think is either just human nature or a byproduct of a religious upbringing. As a recovering catholic I was taught that I was born with original sin. I was doomed from day one unless I played the game by their rules.
I was a baby, what did I do?

Posts: 1862
Joined: Aug 2010

Don't know you and didn't know your mom but I am pretty sure she would not be happy about your last statement. No doubt she was the blessing most mothers are but you are good, too, and may (already) be a mom yourself one day.

You are doing well because you are younger, advancements have been made and continue to be made and because there is a plan for each of us.

Live the life she gave you when you were born, Christine. And be proud of it.


Joy1216's picture
Posts: 293
Joined: Mar 2006

I'm a stage I colon cancer survivor of 4 years. For the first couple of years, I felt guilty because all I had in terms of treatment was a colon resection. I didn't have chemo or radiation, but I was in shock for quite a while after receiving a diagnosis of cancer. Finally, it hit me like a ton of bricks. There is a reason why my cancer was caught so early and why I am still alive - God has things for me to do on this earth. I quit feeling sorry for myself and started thinking of others instead of myself. A friend and I started a cancer support group at our church. Another thing I did has been serving as a mentor/role model for several friends and relatives. These activities, along with lots of volunteering at various church and community functions, have made my guilt disappear.

Edward W
Posts: 30
Joined: Oct 2010

You have done well Joy, And thank you for your efforts.

cwork's picture
Posts: 37
Joined: Oct 2010

As a loved one of someone with cancer I can just say never cease to announce that you are a survivor, and announce it loudly and often! If we did not have stories like yous, what would we have to hope in? You are our hope and inspiration. There are many post on here that are hard to read, and you don't see people telling them to shut up because it is discouraging. Well... how much more should you post positive results because it is uplifting! I honestly think people come to this webisite and spend hours clicking on post and reading bios in the HOPES of reading success stories. I know I do and I don't think I am that much different than anyone else. Please stay active on here and don't forget to share your success stories on the regular forums as well. We need you!

Posts: 4
Joined: Oct 2010

Hi cwork,

I am a 39 year SURVIVOR of Wilm's tumour. I am happily married, 2 healthy children and have a good job!
Michele :-)

Tom J
Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2011

I am an ultra long term stage four colon cancer survivor with diagnosis in 1996 with metastasis to the liver and left lung before diagnosis. I was struck by a post that said she. Was in denial and never believed that she would die from ca. I also never accepted my prognosis of 6 months to 2 years, although I didn't question the statistics. I was told that a cure was not possible given the 6 lesions in the liver and 3 in the left lung. A cure didn't really matter just a longer life

Over the last 15 years I have had a year of 5fu, a resection of a lobe of each lung, liver surgery (2) and 35 doses of radiation to the rt lung. I am now 75 years old and a recent colonoscopy resulted in removal of 8 benign polyps. The colonoscopy was done at the med center rather than the dr's office because with a lobe of each lung missing he was concerned about the anesthetic.

I am really not a candidate for any further treatment and other than shortness of breath I have no symptoms and my cease are normal. On muggy days I have trouble walking the dog our usual mile and a half. I have had some pangs of survival guilt, but not many except when I see younger people losing the battle. I do not believe in the idea that I survived for a special purpose. I had great medical care and good genes mostly. I do however have a totally unscientific belief that your psyche is hardwired to your immune system and that if you don't give in to the negatives you can go on longer. But, that's just my personal thought.

I do have occasional bouts of extreme fatigue ( 2 to 3 weeks at a time) but with 5 cancer surgeries, an ileostomy and reversal et al I guess my body is wearing down.

I am going to just sit back and see hat happens. My wife and I are reaching our 49th wedding anniversary and we look forward to more. I no longer fear the cancer but I don't want to become dependent on others especially my kids. So , I guess timing is everything. Right now I'm good.

Just be glad for each day and don't let guilt get to you .

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