<< View All Contributors

It's OK to Be Alive: Learning to Deal With Cancer Survivor's Guilt

Accepting feelings of guilt is not only normal, but it's a part of life.
She was 66, just a few years older than I. We’d become fast friends and laughed at the fact that we shared not only the same breast cancer diagnosis, but the same first names. She died last week after a valiant fight. When I heard the news, I became extremely depressed. I didn’t realize that what I was feeling was normal. I wasn’t only suffering from grief at the loss of a friend, I was also suffering from survivor’s guilt.
Survivor’s guilt, according to the Psychologydictionary.org is, “a feeling of sadness or personal responsibility for managing to live through a terrible event in which others didn't manage to survive.” It felt odd to feel guilty about being alive. Shouldn’t I be happy? But no one explains how to deal with the guilt of surviving, especially where cancer is involved.
Why was I feeling guilty? There was nothing I could have done to have prevented the death of my friend. I knew I’d done all I could to help her through her journey. I’d spent time with her. I’d talked with her on the phone and became a sounding board when she needed a listening ear. I’d sent funny cards in the mail to cheer her when she was down. I’d taken her flowers. I was there for her in good times and in bad and she’d been there for me. We compared notes on our diagnoses and treatment. We talked about our doctors. We understood that cancer had made us more than friends. It had made us sisters.
As I began to process my grief over her death and the fact that I was still living, I was overcome with emotion. For days, I cried. The tears were a healing balm washing over me and allowing me the release I so desperately needed. When I’d cried all the tears I had left to cry, I felt numb. There was nothing more to do or say, or so I thought. That’s when I began writing.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Breast cancer CURE discussion group.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
The Best Cancer Blogs of the Year - 2017
CURE wants to hear from you! We are inviting you to Share Your Story with the readers of CURE. Submit your personal experience with cancer by visiting Share Your Story
Not yet receiving CURE in your mailbox? Sign up to receive CURE Magazine by visiting GetCureNow.com
//For side ad protocol