Survivor Guilt

March 22, 2020
Marilyn Munro

I'm a three time cancer survivor.

When I was 26 I found out I had Hodgkin's lymphoma and went through a very aggressive regime of chemotherapy for six months. Two years later it came back to the same place, so I had to do radiation therapy. Fast forward 17 years and I have breast MRI's every year along with mammograms and ultrasounds due to the fact that I had radiation to my chest which made me high risk for breast cancer, since I was so young when I received it. I had suspicious enhancements show up on the MRI before and turned out benign, but this time, I wasn't so lucky.

Invasive ductal carcinoma was the diagnosis, and double mastectomy was the course of action my doctors decided on at U of M. I should feel happy that I beat it and won three times, but instead I feel sad because of what I've been through with treatments and surgeries. And then I hear of someone passing away and while I may not even know them, it makes me feel guilty and sad... and then I feel guilty more for having those moments of when I felt sorry for myself, so it's a vicious cycle of guilt!

All I keep thinking about is, I have to live this life right, because so many people had their lives taken away because of cancer and I beat it three times. So what makes me so special that I'm still here and they're not? I work out hard in the gym because I feel like I have something to prove to myself, to prove that I do deserve to be here. That I can honor the lost by living out the rest of my life with love, kindness and lots of determination.

When I run and feel like I can't go on, I think of those who aren't here to run and I feel them with me and it helps me to keep pushing. I think I may start a survivor support group, because I don't think I'm alone in feeling guilty, and I think it would help to talk to others who feel the same way. Maybe we can help each other.


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