Do You Ever Have Survivor’s Guilt?

Don't hide under a mushroom Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Don’t hide under a mushroom
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

You have a choice to look at this day in a new way.

Finding a survivor, a long-term survivor, can be a launching point for your  survival.  Your observance of a long-term cancer survivor is the  introduction to learning what we do to survive, how we think and how we behave. These long-term survivors can be the examples of showing you how to live. Embrace the thought of “if they can do it, so can I!”

As a cancer survivor, there are many words used to define our act of surviving; words that, frankly speaking, have never set will with me. For instance, there are many moments where we survivors experience what some define as ‘survivor’s guilt’. The definition of guilt includes:

  1. the fact of committing a breech of conduct
  2. having feelings of culpability (meriting condemnation or blame especially as wrong or harmful) for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy
  3. a feeling of culpability for offense

In the recent months I have experienced knowing cancer patients who have transitioned beyond this life. I have not simply known of them, I have had their cell phone numbers programmed into my cell phone. In other words, I spent quality time with these folks.

Several of these fine folks were parents of young children…children old enough to know what is going on in their lives and old enough to make life changing decisions. These children are old enough, and yet they are still young enough, that by experiencing the loss a parent means the decisions they could be making are being made without the guidance of an adult, without the guidance of a parent who cares deeply for them.

Here I am childless. I exist with the heartfelt loss of friends I have only known for a short while; who I met on this journey we call survivorship. For me to use the defining words ‘survivor’s guilt’ is inappropriate. I have not committed a crime, a breech of conduct nor do I harbor the feelings of blame. I do not feel inadequate. I do not have a feeling of culpability.

Actually I feel quite the opposite. I feel empowered to do more, to dig deeper towards my quest to find what or why this disease we call cancer invades more and more people’s lives each and every day. (There is another word that is used so often with cancer – invade. Why does everything with cancer have to involve terminology used in warfare. With war one party will always win while the other will lose. To exist will always create opposition – resist; the yin and the yang.)

There is a source to cancer, but clearly it has not been proven to be one that is well-defined. If we were able to define it, to see it, to hold it in ours hands or under a microscope, we would or we should be able to find the cure.

Instead of looking at the disease, the abnormal cellular tissue, why not focus on those people who HAD the disease and are surviving. Why is it they are surviving when others who received the exact same protocol of treatment, have transitioned? Couldn’t one consider that for these long-term cancer survivors, the source within each has been addressed or tackled, the source has been diminished or even removed?

During my survivorship journey from ovarian cancer, I have met so many women who ARE surviving well past the statistics for this cancer. I watch them transform their personalities, transform their outlook, change their circle of friends, change jobs, retire and some even change their marital status.

The single most common trait I have observed is their changed attitude about themselves. Instead of being the sacrificial maternal caretaker of others, they learn to become the caretaker of themselves. These women have gone from taking life seriously to being totally playful with their lives and the lives of those around them. They made a choice to enjoy the journey rather than resist the journey…even the journey through their cancer treatment. They learned to make the best of it – all of it!

We have all heard how having a positive attitude will help us through treatment; how liking our doctor will stimulate the body’s reaction to accepting the treatment prescribed by the doctor; how participating in cancer support groups will also stimulate the body’s favorable response to treatment –some suggest participating in support program may even add several months to survival. Months??? I don’t know about you, but I want years added to my life. I have places to go, people to see and most importantly things to do…like helping you!

These positive thoughts and actions or ‘activities’ will only impact survivorship to a point. You can say a positive affirmation 1,000 times…it will either work or it won’t. When it doesn’t work…why is that? Could it possibly be because the person, on the inside, is buying it? How does one learn to absorb these positive affirmations into their core? How can they learn to absorb the meaning of positive affirmations into their cells?

So, as I write this blog today, I want to continue my calling to share with you all of my   observations of these long-term cancer survivors.  Let’s begin with becoming more ‘playful’ with your life. Won’t you please just try? What can you do today to be playful? What can you ‘be’ to become playful? How can you react to your life more playfully?

Learn more about long term cancer survivors visit spotmany