Survivors Guilt

I’ve been contemplating writing this blog ever since I was diagnosed. It’s a subject that actually means a lot to me, and it’s been playing on my mind for quite some time.

Any life threatening situation can have a massive impact on your mental health and it’s so important that we talk about that and start a conversation… so for those who don’t know what survivors guilt is, here’s the dictionary definition.

Cancer and Guilt

A traumatic experience like cancer has put so many things into perspective. Cancer has the power to change so many things about you, and the way you think: good and bad. Survivors guilt is one of the many side effects that I have suffered with, and I haven’t spoken about it.

Ever since I was diagnosed, I knew that my odds with the treatment were good; the chemotherapy had great statistics. However, I know that you have to take statistics with a pinch of salt, because cancer is a statistic that I fell under… a statistic no one wants to fall under.

My guilt first appeared when I was surrounded by people with cancer; whether I knew them, saw them, spoke to them during chemotherapy. The Churchill is a cancer specialist hospital, there’s no way that I could avoid it even if I wanted to. When people hear that I had cancer, people would then go on to tell me about someone they knew with cancer, and if they survived or not. I know people don’t know. But hearing this, wasn’t what I wanted to hear at that time. There was no escaping the stories, cancer is everywhere; social media, the news, tv shows, adverts, word of mouth… it was impossible to escape for a little while.

I started feeling guilty because I survived and they didn’t. And that is still hard to come to terms with. Even if they had a different type of cancer, I would still feel guilty that I’m here and they aren’t. Why have I been blessed of staying alive and they haven’t? Why didn’t it work for them and it worked for me? Why is the world so cruel? These are questions that I know the answers to, but I still can’t wrap my head around it because I really feel the pain of that person who didn’t make it. Sometimes, I feel like I would have rather died to save a life, but the world doesn’t work that way.

I know that I can’t change the outcome of people’s lives. I barely have control over my health.

So what can we do about survivors guilt?

Accept your feelings because you don’t want to be battling your brain everyday and cause unnecessary damage to your mental health.

Grieve, go through the stages of grief. All your feelings are valid, and you have every right to take time out to grieve those people that have died. You are only human too.

Act on your guilt, the world is full of so many negatives – so why not turn that guilt into something positive? Use your platform to raise awareness, campaign, put some good into the world and help leave their mark on the world.

You aren’t alone, many people suffer with survivors guilt, it’s a form of PTSD, which is the most common mental health illness to suffer with after a traumatic event/accident.

Ask your GP – as always, your GP can provide you the medical help you need. Don’t ever feel like a burden, get the help you deserve.

Enjoy life… as hard as that may sound, you now understand how fragile life is. A life can be taken in a matter of seconds, minutes or even years. It’s precious. Enjoy the life you have, because you only get it once.

9 thoughts on “Survivors Guilt

  1. All understandable Nicole. Even more so as young Jack situation was a double blow, to us all. I
    struggled daily to separate the emotions between the both of you in the early months. I can only imagine what your feelings were.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never knew survivors guilt was even a thing until I experienced it myself. “Why me” and “why not me” were the questions constantly going on in my head. I’m lucky to have a fantastic GP who explains everything to me in a way I can understand it. We don’t get to choose to have this horrible disease, so why should we be able to decide who stays and who goes. Thanks again for sharing your story xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right, it’s all out of our hands, but that feeling is always around. I’m glad to hear you’ve got a fantastic GP, I wish I had the same! Thank you for your thoughts ❤️ xx

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  3. Hi Nicole – thank you for sharing your thoughts. I don’t have the answers but I do feel that it was not your time to go and that you have the opportunity to bring joy and happiness to everyone you come into contact with and your experience may help others who may have had to endure some of life’s difficult challenges

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  4. Great piece Nicole! Definitely resonates. I have metastatic breast cancer with No Evidence of Disease while a woman I work with just lost her daughter, who had the same disease. There’s no rhyme or reason to why I’m here and she’s not. And despite traveling the same rode, I have no words to console my friend in her grief. Thanks for tackling the hard stuff in your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s really hard to come to terms with. We don’t decide who stays and who goes, but the feelings that come along with having this awful disease and watching people go through it as well, its awful.

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  5. Thank you for sharing. I’ve been living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer for two years and it guts me every day as I see my friends dealing with progression and leaving their families behind. I hug my kiddos extra tight these days and continue to grieve. Love and light to you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting! Exactly, it makes you appreciate the ones around you a whole lot more. I will never take for granted life, after seeing and experiencing the struggle. Lots of love to you, hope you’re doing well 💚

      Liked by 1 person

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