Heidi's Cancer Blog

Survivor's Guilt - Do you ever feel it?

I have not been on here in quite a while. I have tried to leave my cancer journey behind me but there are always reminders, pokes, taunts, and inconveniences that keep it top of mind. I have been feeling uneasy, sad and hopeless with everything going on in the world and in my own personal space. My mother died from a massive stroke in January and that sent me reeling and then Covid. I am thankful that I have a job but when I returned from furlough, it is a job I no longer recognize. My boss has changed and my extended team has changed. A job I loved and enjoyed going to every day has become an extremely difficult chore both physically and mentally that I don’t enjoy and I don’t know if I ever will again.

A couple weeks ago a good friend was diagnosed with incurable cancer that started in her lungs (never a smoker) and has metastasized to her bones causing bones to break and severe pain. The doctors are still trying to figure out how to extend her life and she has not been given an estimate of her time left but it is clear that she will not survive this battle. She has two sons, 21 and 17. Her family is in Mexico so they cannot be with her because of the virus. My friends and I have become her family doing all we can for her to try to ease financial and other worldly burdens that she should not have to deal with now. She had to quit her job as the pain meds clouded her mind and she was unable to work. I am amazed by her peace. She has made peace with dying. Her spirit is more alive, she has clarity to her situation and she is embracing every moment that she has left. There is no anger, no bitterness, no "why me", just peace. She is an amazing woman and I am constantly reminded of why we are friends and why I love her.

I came to this place last week feeling that I needed to check in. I am not totally sure what drew me here but one thing was I had not seen any posts from Michele in a long time. She always brought me back here and she was the first person I checked on only to find out that she had passed very recently. I loved her writing. Even though I did not know her, I appreciated her so much. Her point of view, her humor, her humanity and her excellent writing always brought me back to this place. 

This week I have found myself crying a lot. I am crying for my friend, crying for people who I really didn’t know and for myself. I grieve the loss of my mother and this consuming, breathtaking, gut wrenching pain is not something I ever anticipated. This year has been full of so much loss and sadness it is hard not to become overwhelmed. I also find myself feeling guilty that I have survived.

Do you ever feel guilty because you survived? I am single, I do not have children, my parents have both passed. I have a brother and two nieces and they are my only family. No one is counting on me to cheer at a graduation, or be the mother of the bride or groom or welcome the first grandbaby. I don’t feel like I am expendable but I often wonder why the people who have so many counting on them have to go and I get to stay. My friend who is dying is hoping to live long enough to see her son start his senior year of high school. Initially her hope was to see him graduate but her reality is changing daily. 

I have tremendous faith and I know that these things are out of my control but I still wonder. I do not talk about this with my (non-cancer) friends because I don’t think they can understand how I feel. Can you? Am I crazy or is the survivor’s guilt real? Do you ever feel this way?

I also question/anticipate/struggle as I approach the 5 year anniversary of my diagnosis. It is still a few months away but things are often measured in “5 year survival rates”. Those of you who have been NED longer – do you ever feel this way? I guess I am looking for some advice on how to manage these feelings. Is this normal or am I crazy?

Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

Heidi 

Easterly threw a punch at your cancer.
Kbmcv sent you a prayer.
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Heidi
Yes, I have experienced survivor’s guilt many times. It is heartbreaking. I believe it is very common. My sister passed away from pancreatic cancer. It is very hard to understand why I am here and she is not. My son’s mother in law passed away in February from cancer. Now I am the only grandmother to his children. I wish she were here to share grandmothering these sweet babies. And the one on the way.
Survivors guilt is always there but I try my best to just enjoy every day that I have been blessed with.

You are not alone.

Linda
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Heidi!
I do know what you mean...I think most of us do to a degree. I really feel it when I know someone who is diagnosed and you hear all the encouragement to fight or they are described as a fighter as if the person who happens to survive this wretched beast is fighting any harder than someone who's not so "lucky" . It just seems crazy to me. I don't know the words to say that will take away the "guilt"...but I do know with all my heart that God's ways are not our own. So when the young parent with so much to live for is taken way too soon vs someone that has raised their children and lived a good life and survives another 20 years you just can't make sense of it but I know that it will be okay and one day I will understand. Keep the faith and I pray you will have Peace.
Sara♥️
Kim, Jane like this comment
Heidi you're not crazy. You've had a lot of traumatic events in your life which would make anyone question their sanity. I'm not saying this is the answer to all that you are feeling but I do have two suggestions: #1) visit your doctor and get a pharmaceutical, a mood elevater; and #2) if you don't already have a pet, get one. A pet is a living creature that needs you. I know you work and you think the pet would be alone all day; well the pet is better off in your home than a shelter. When Michelle was dx'ed, do you remember what she did? She went to the shelter and got a dog!
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Heidi, first let me say I am so very sorry to hear about your friend. Cancer really does suck in so many ways.

What you are feeling is so understandable. I was heartbroken when I heard about Michele's passing, asking why her? She had a family and so many people in her life who needed her for so many reasons. Why not me, someone with no family who really need me? That's a question that has no answer.

I am also sorry for the loss of your mother. My mom passed away last October and I can understand your feelings of loss. I have to remind myself often that she would not want me to stop living just because she's no longer here. It's tough sometimes and my heart goes out to you.

I am sure you are feeling a bit of "when it rains, it pours," given your job situation, the pandemic, and all the unrest in the world right now. Perhaps it would be helpful if you talked to someone who counsels people going through a rough time. Perhaps just talking this all out, even with a trusted friend, would make you feel better. Just a couple of suggestions.

Please know that your BFAC friends are here to listen. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
Jane, Easterly like this comment
Heidi, so sorry for all of your losses and sad feelings. It’s such an incredibly depressing time but you are important and obviously needed by your friend. Survivor guilt? Absolutely not! You deserve to live!
Hello Heidi. This is our first meeting. I often asked myself why my husband got pancreatic cancer and died, and I didn't. Earlier I felt guilty that it was him and not me. I also understand wanting to put your cancer journey behind you. I feel that, even though it was not me. I know the struggle, the pain, the heartbreak. You are one of the lucky ones. Taking care of your friend is probably reminding you of your struggles and all that went along with that. Maybe you should talk to your dr and get some help with those residual feelings. Helping your friend is a wonderful thing, and I would certainly be doing exactly what you are doing if one of my good friends were in her position. You seem like a wonderful person, wish I knew you and lived close.
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Heidi,
Cancer takes a toll on everyone. This year has been so very difficult for people on different levels. Pets are therapy as they love unconditionally. A woman that I know volunteers to foster dogs. Find something you enjoy and work toward it as a goal. Hugs for you!
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I am nearly ten years NED...and have come to understand that this beast is far harder to predict than other deadly afflictions. In any case your death would not prevent that of your friend...hang on and take it all one day at a time...hugs
OMG!! You made me realize TODAY is my 5th year anniversary. I thought I wouldn't feel relief, but, I do a tad. I am glad the uneasiness, makes me feel very appreciative.
I don't feel guilty that I live, just damn lucky. that I'm still here, and more appreciative for more life!I feel sick to my stomach at every loss of our dear friends on BFAC. I had discovered Michelle's website, before BFAC, and was glued to every word, before discovering all these wonderful AC survivors. I have to hide my grief these days.
Because of Covid, our lives have become extremely stressful. Although, difficult, I'm still seeing a vision of a new life coming, and I am hopeful we can all live with more peace by this time next year.I am so sorry, you are dealing with all this at one time. It's so important to connect with your hobbies (maybe something you could do with your friend). Enjoy nature. Enjoy the simple luxuries; although Covid, is making it tough. I hope you reach out more, and know you are going through a tough time, and look forward to a less stressful, and meaningful retirement.I hope you turn this grief into a new direction in your life.
Big hug!!
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NED

I have finally heard those magical words that I have been waiting to hear since my cancer ordeal started on 12/24/15.  No evidence of disease - I had no idea how I would feel hearing those words.  I was at my desk at work when the call came (I called the doctor because I was heading out of town and wanted to know before I left).  When I ended the call I sat at my desk sobbing.  A coworker came in and was very concerned because they all knew I was waiting for my results.  Through my sobbing I told her "it's actually good.  I don't know why I am reacting this way."  She hugged me and I cried on her shoulder.  She assured me that she would have a similar reaction.  I called my mom, my best friend and my brother and then told the rest of my coworkers.  As the day wore on, it started to sink in more and more.  I feel like I can get back to my life now.  The pause button has been released.  My best friend has been thinking about NED and came up with this: New Chapter, Empowered and Determined.  I love the original but I like this one too.  To those of you that are still going through treatment, hang in there.  I hope and pray that you quickly get to this magical moment.

 

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💙💜💚❤️
Heidi likes this comment
Yay! Yay! Yay!
Heidi likes this comment
Amen!!! So happy for you.
Heidi likes this comment
Congrats Heidi, wonderful news! I know exactly what you mean about the pause button - put your life back in play mode now and have fun!
Heidi likes this comment
"New Chapter, Empowered and Determined"...excellent. happy happy happy for you.
Heidi likes this comment
🎉🎉🎉🎉
Heidi likes this comment
what great news! go out and do something nice for yourself. I get the same reaction too.
Heidi likes this comment
Keep on dancing with NED!!!!

HUGS
Heidi likes this comment
So happy for you and all those you love and love you💜💜💜💜
Heidi likes this comment
Heidi, I am so happy to hear this! I know how I felt when I heard I was NED--what music to my ears! I'm glad you had others around you with whom to share this great news! I hope you find a special way to celebrate. Hugs to you!
Heidi likes this comment
Wonderful! I am happy that you are feeling so relieved! it is good to feel that way again.
Heidi likes this comment
I so understand those tears of joy! NED is your new lifelong buddy. You paid some steep dues to get to this moment, Heidi. Hold onto it, but now you get to let go, too. Congratulations!
Heidi likes this comment
What wonderful words. I still get emotional when I hear them from you all. Love the alternative words as well. Now to move on to the next chapter in your life. Hugs Annabelle
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Fabulous news! Hooray!
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Vital Info

Posts

January 31, 2016

Georgia

August 12, 1966

Cancer Info

Anal Cancer

December 24, 2015

Stage 1

Hard to decide what I hate most about it.

Not to take things for granted and appreciate the little things.

Keep sending me jokes and funny videos.

Drink lots of water!

Do everything you can to stay positive, don't worry about things you cannot control and surround yourself with people who have a love of life.

Severe bleeding that landed me in the ER

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