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Lynne Eldridge MD

Guilt After Surviving Cancer

By October 31, 2012

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To someone without cancer, it might be hard to imagine. The question rings in my ears, "How can you possibly feel guilty about surviving cancer? Especially when you were doing everything to avoid it when you got it in the first place?

But survivors guilt doesn't follow the rules. It's not rational. And though it might be easier to envision the survivor's guilt that survivors of 9/11 felt - wondering why they had been spared while friends and coworkers lost their lives - it's every bit as real.

Many of us in the lung cancer community came face to face with those feelings these past few weeks. We lost one of our dearest and most loved friends - somebody who was doing so much to make a difference for people living with cancer. Lori Hope breathed hope.

Have you experienced survivor's guilt as a cancer survivor? Have you had to face that bittersweet feeling that comes when you are thrilled to be alive yourself, but are mourning the death of a loved one who didn't survive? If so, check out this article that shares tips that have helped others cope:

Comments
October 31, 2012 at 9:00 pm
(1) George Robertson says:

Hi Lynn:
I hope you realize your efforts are truly appreciated. I did the survivor bit big time. When I quit smoking I tried to convince my younger sister to do it also. She said she enjoyed it. Eighteen years later I was DXed with asbestos related edema carcinoma and had my upper right lobe removed. She continued to enjoy her smokes. Two years after my DX she was DXed with emphysema and COPD.
Over the next four years my condition continued to improve as she, with the aid of all the steroids, aerosols, oxygen generators, and all the other useless paraphenelia, gasped more frantically for a breath of air. When the end came I was in Philadelphia and she was in Columbus, Ohio. Her family was with her and they called me and put her on the phone. She gasped that she was ready for release from all the apparatus and the feeling of a plastic bag over her face. I told her “Its ok for you to go now, Sweetheart”. She didn’t answer and a few moments later her daughter told me she was gone.
Why me? Why am I still here and she is dead? It took about eight years for me to accept the fact that there are some things we cannot control. I know that, after having seen her suffer, that any lung disease is a terrible thing, and I have my own opinion of which is the worse. So don’t punish yourself. Enjoy your gift. You’ve paid your dues.

November 1, 2012 at 1:15 am
(2) lungcancer says:

Thank you George! Thank you for sharing from your heart — I am in tears thinking about all of the emotions that must have swirled around in your head for so many years. You get it! And I love the reminder that sometimes non-cancer diseases can be worse than cancer. As cancer survivors sometimes we forget about some of those awful diseases like COPD, and how people coping with them need support. Lung cancer is kind of the underdog, but even lung cancer gets more attention than COPD — and the stigma — well….

Thank you for the reminder to enjoy my gift. Ditto! We have survived, both with cancers that some people would write off. Thank you for the encouragement you gave so many when we were in Washington DC last spring. As my kids would say, “you rock!”

November 2, 2012 at 11:23 am
(3) george says:

Thanks Lynn.

You’re a tough, classy lady!

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