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thriver guilt

Posts: 205
Joined: Sep 2008

I was diagnosed 4 years ago and have been happy to consider myself not a survivor but a thriver. A close co-workers wife was diagnosed 3years ago and just discovered a recurrance. Another friend's mother-in-law is back in treatment for a recurrance. I have no words of comfort. It is a horrible reality and fear. How have I become so blessed and still feel like I deserve this because they do too?

Posts: 92
Joined: Sep 2012

You feel guilty because you have remained healthy. I am really glad that you made it! These are the end results that we all love to hear, and what we endure the treatments for. If you want to assuage that awful guilt ;-) you can come on here frequently and give us that message of hope. Also I will forever be grateful to those that got through the treatments and turned around to reach back to pull ME through too. The tips and advice and compassion were priceless.

You alone can understand the sadness that your fellow sisters have with a recurrence. You can comfort! just by your compassion.

I hope to see you back!

salls41's picture
Posts: 340
Joined: Apr 2012

Please continue to help those of us that do fear that reoccurrence by letting us know there is hope. It is sad that others have had the reoccurrence, but it is not by any of your doing! Use your good fortune to keep us moving forward. May God continue to bless you with good health!

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

I have suffered the same guilt for years!. I am 25 years out after a not great prognosis to begin with (large tumor, 4 nodes). I am still battling cancer, but, as you described, I am thriving.

It is so heartbreaking to have the privilege of getting to know many amazing women and then watching them die while you thrive. It is a feeling that can overcome sometimes. So many whys....

The new molecular breast cancer classification sheds a little more light on prognosis, etc. But that doesn't make me feel one bit better that there should be more women thriving.

For me, offering support and not abandoning anyone has helped. But this is still a struggle for me. I want EVERYONE to thrive!

camul's picture
Posts: 2541
Joined: Dec 2010

I am one who has been very blessed to get 8 1-2 years with NED, then within 2 weeks of getting pain in the chest (rib area), told it was a pulled muscle, to 1 week later not being able to go up stairs, to 5 days later seeing my onco, and just from the exam and blood work, being told he thinks it is back, to having a pet 2 days after this and reading that it was through me.

I have been fighting the mets for 2 years, am now on my 4th chemo combo, and still the cancer is growing and spreading. It is in almost all bones, liver, connective tissues in the ribs, skin and scalp. It is a fight to stay alive! Yet in some ways I feel I am thriving. I am still here, walking, and enjoying the good days.....

Which brings me to survivors guilt. I never look at those of you who are doing well and say why me. Bottom line is when I hear of another one who has crossed over to the mets side, my first reaction is 'oh no, not another one having to go through this'. Don't get me wrong, I would love to have tumors that are receptive to chemo better yet not to have any tumors, but so far that has not been the case. I am rejoicing right with each and everyone of you who get good news and cry with each one who does not.

Unfortunately, each of our paths are different, and I feel so bad that so many feel guilt. Throw the guilt out the window and use that time to live! With 70,000 more men and women being diagnosed with bc mets every year, and approximately 41,000 of us dying every year, remember there are no guarantees. I just feel that everyone needs to live their life everyday as nothing is promised and DO NOT waste your time as each of us has our own blue print.

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2805
Joined: Jun 2010

I, too, have what I can only label as "thriver guilt". This summer it occurred to me that I probably would not be here today had I not been diagnosed and treated 2+ years ago (I could easily have put off my well woman exams that lead to dx - I'm good at things like that. In fact, I did put off followup for the abnormal pap and annual mammogram. The only reason I scheduled the mammo is my pcp nagged me about getting a pelvic ultrasound so I did the mammo at the same time!). That was the first event in this downward spiral I've been struggling with lately. 3 personal friends were recently diagnosed with mets. Each had their initial diagnosis around the same time as me. Slid a little farther down with this news. The women I've been helping get through their journeys via my volunteer work weigh heavily on me lately. I will accompany one of them to her first chemo on Tuesday and I'm not sure how that is going to effect me. I'm actually more nervous about this than I was for my own first chemo.

And I wonder - how is it that I have been so blessed? And why does it bother me that that I was? Of course, I realize I can have a recurrence of either cancer, but the odds are in my favor. And certainly having a recurrence would not make me feel good!

So what to do about it? I think I'm going to make an appointment with a psychologist because I don't want to disconnect from this community I joined 2+ years ago. I believe I had a unique experience that might help others and bring them hope and support.

I do "get" what you're talking about in terms of "thriver guilt", but I don't understand why or what to do about it. Thanks for posting about it.


MsGebby's picture
Posts: 659
Joined: Oct 2011

You truly are amazing. Once again ... you struck a cord with me.

You see, today was the first time I did "the walk". I've always wanted to be part of this cause, but it took me all this time because I am now afflicted with breast cancer. I felt guilty that I had never done this walk before. OMG ... what a wonderful way to have a chance to "feel not so alone". AND to feel that for once in my life, I was doing something very important. I was helping others while helping myself.

I registered at the first booth and then was pointed to the SURVIVORS booth. I signed the quilt and walked back inside the booth. A woman asked me how long have I been a survivor. I told her since March. Then I explained that I felt my date of survivorship was after I finished active treatment. She said many others feel that date is from the time of diagnosis. Somehow, this conversation started to get to me. I got emotional. I had tears in my eyes and then I thought of the wonderful people in my life who lost their battle to this disease. I started feeling like it wasn't fair that I was still here!

This wonderful lady came from behind the table (she was handing out free shirts) and asked if I needed counseling for being a breast cancer survivor. Just saying that makes me feel like I have nothing to complain about. But I do get emotional because I am a survivor.

I like the term "thriver" better (I think). Thank you for always being here to save the day. Your strength truly amazes me. I hope you get through the day you accompany our pink sister to her first chemo session. How I wish you were closer to me IF I ever have a recurrence. I know ... that's selfish. But I know an angel when I see one.

I forget who started this thread, but I want to say thank you for starting this conversation.


Gabe N Abby Mom's picture
Gabe N Abby Mom
Posts: 2415
Joined: Sep 2010

I come at this as a stage IV thriver like Camul, and I agree completely with her.

Sure I have some occasional dark thoughts, but don't all of us who have faced this beast? I don't spend my time thinking 'poor me'...I spend my time living my days and getting all the joy out of each day that I possibly can. I think that is exactly what each of us should be doing, regardless of where we are on this journey. My motto has become 'It's not about why me? or what if? It's about what surrounds me in this moment.' Any guilt you might have is wasted on me.

Like Suzanne and Eileen are doing, (and like I hope I am doing), I think the best way to help others who have to face this (first, second, or third time) is to pay it forward and help in whatever way we can. Sometimes that's a listening ear over dinner or lunch (thanks Suzanne!), help with yard work, a dinner delivered, a cozy blanket (thank you Eileen!), help running errands, and sometimes simple compassion and understanding is just right (thank you to all my friends here!).

This is good conversation, thank you for starting this thread.



missrenee's picture
Posts: 2137
Joined: Apr 2010

I'm finding myself agreeing in thought with Linda and Carol (Camul). I don't think I've ever spent a second thinking, "why me" and I tell all my friends--don't you ever, ever let me see you feeling sorry for me. For some reason, God has chosen this as my path. Everyone has the path that they're on for a reason--at least that's my belief. Would I prefer a different, healthier path--hell yea--but I'm on the one I am for a reason--I just don't know what it is yet.

I have learned many things from being here though--like enjoying every day, finding more joy in the simple things like a beautiful blue sky, hummingbird on my flowers outside, my grandson's laugh. I used to sometimes take these things for granted. Not any more. I'm softer, kinder, laugh more, get angry less. I help people as much as I can and try to always give someone the benefit of the doubt--who knows what they're going through.

My opinion is, if you start feeling guilty--do something about it. Volunteer--there is always something you can do that someone else can benefit from.

Hugs, Renee

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

Renee, you are exactly right! I think that is in part the reason why I started making the blankets. I just wanted to give all cancer patients a hug and let them know I was thinking about them. And the name of the mission became "Warm Fuzzy", suggested by someone here. Who was that?

Anyway, we all have to find a way to live our lives to the fullest and pay it forward. :-)

SIROD's picture
Posts: 2199
Joined: Jun 2010

I like the word "thriver" a lot better than "survivor". We are all surviving, as in we get up every morning and go about our business. I've been dealing with breast cancer since 1994. Been very lucky with the hormonal therapy for I have been using them for over 17 1/2 years. Can't feel sorry for myself when I've been so very fortunate.

I am very happy that many of my friends who had breast cancer have remain "cancer free". Some of course who began the journey with me did die. I wish we all could survive this disease but that is the reality. Some do, some don't.

As for your friends who have a recurrence, just a simple, "I'm sorry it came back" will do. If at all possible inquire if there is anything you could do to help her. If she say no, try to find something from your own history that gave you comfort and do it for them.

To me, we just deal with the hand that has been dealt to us, the best we can.


New Flower
Posts: 4299
Joined: Aug 2009

Well living with cancer is not always about cancer. For those of us who is facing recurrence, new primary or progression compassion and support does not need to be about cancer. Weather you take your friend on doctor's appointment, to the part, or coffee shop will be good. Flower, card or a phone call - anything. Please do not ignore them because you feel uncomfortable.
Here on this board we are also welcome volunteers as well

Posts: 239
Joined: Nov 2009

I also feel like I got off easy compared to others on this board and two of my friends and another friend's 15 month old baby who currently is going through chemo treatments.. I think that is why I don't post very much.. I can't even imagine what some of you have gone through and so it seems better not to comment on some issues that I have no knowledge or understanding of.. all I can do is offer good wishes and prayers... and even then the right words sometimes escape me.... maybe it is enough that we acknowledge and appreciate what we have and do what we can for others who are going through difficult times..


Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010

I agree many times I just write/ post I have not gone through what you have but sending good thoughts..


Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010

I too am post 4 yrs but yesterday had Mammo first all good then ultrasound-not so good.

But I totally understand you...at times I feel my BC was so simple compared to many. When I say that I hear nothing is simple about 'cancer" which I understand..but I know mine was caught so early.

Just being a friend , no words if helpful...I have a friend going through years of non stop treatments-and mine was only surgery and 8 wks radiation..at times I feel bad

Best to you and your health..


Posts: 6587
Joined: Oct 2010

I too am post 4 yrs but yesterday had Mammo first all good then ultrasound-not so good.

But I totally understand you...at times I feel my BC was so simple compared to many. When I say that I hear nothing is simple about 'cancer" which I understand..but I know mine was caught so early.

Just being a friend , no words if helpful...I have a friend going through years of non stop treatments-and mine was only surgery and 8 wks radiation..at times I feel bad

Best to you and your health..


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