Are you a ‘guilty survivor?’

On Monday, I had my usual monthly review with my Consultant. I have always thought that these meetings may be too frequent, but the professionals are right, and generally there is something that has occurred since the last meeting, and will need correcting. More medication,and different blood tests.

It is always a good opportunity to catch up with my fellow patients, and staff. Also, if I didn’t visit the pharmacy for my drugs, they would wonder what had happened to me! A lot of the staff in my hospital, read my blog, and I am often told, that they learn so much from it. On this visit I was approached by a senior health professional, who wanted to chat.

He mentioned that he personally, was learning a lot from my writing, and felt that the N.H.S in general, was not really taking the benefits of social media seriously. Although he agreed that neither he or his colleagues, used it, or knew much about it. I was explaining how people around the world were interested in reading about the highs and lows of my life with cancer. I explained how my own case, could give people hope. He understood exactly, the benefits of my blog.


My case is very unique, starting with a rare diagnosis, then followed by many ongoing complications. I have had, and continue to have, many surprises along the route, but as he pointed out, the biggest of all is that I am still in remission, after 6 years!

As some of you will know, I have recently lost some friends, just after they had received their stem-cell transplants, and have others that are struggling with their health since, and I mentioned those people. As I always say, the difficulty with cancer and it’s treatment is that they are very individual. One person’s experience, although useful, is not necessarily a guide, as to how your own process will go.

I was then asked if I was a ‘guilty survivor?’ It was the first time I had heard that expression, but I do think about things like that frequently. Apparently it is a well know issue, and affects a lot of people. This really set me thinking! Personally I don’t consider that I am, but I do often wonder, how I am still here, and others, whose cases seemed more straight forward than mine, are not.

“Why me?” is a question that is often asked, both by people who have been diagnosed with cancer, or people who are surviving, when others don’t. I have never asked why I got the disease, but I do often wonder, how I have made it this far, when the odds were stacked against me. However I wouldn’t say that I felt guilty about it.

Until, I was told that this is a common issue, I can’t really say that I have encountered many people who outwardly feel like that. I suppose it is possible that people don’t discuss it. The many people that I am in contact with, all seem very aware of their individual situation, and we all hope that each other do as well as possible. We know what may happen, to any of us, but I would be surprised if anyone suffered from guilt.

This was one of the very few visits to hospital that I have had where a professional has had time to discuss some of the ‘grey areas’ around my case. These are the issues that can make so much difference, to people holistically. Having said that I had felt guilty for taking up a bit of time! I couldn’t help feeling that if professionals managed to find some time to get to know us better it might help us all. Time seems to be our modern day enemy.

Are you, or do you know a ‘guilty survivor?’


  1. Here’s me thinking I was the only one! I only feel guilty when talking to people who have lost someone to cancer except my mum. She’s lost a sister and her mum to cancer and then her daughter survives it. It shows her hope and less doom for cancer so for that I feel blessed but when other people have nothing but gloom and doom thoughts on the issue I start to feel more so like I’m living on someone elses borrowed time.

    • Hi Sam

      Thanks for your comments, that make perfect sense. You are certainly not the only one who feels like that! My Consultant made it very clear that it is a real issue for a lot of cancer patients.

      The reason I write this blog is to show that you are not the only one who feels like you do. A lot of people cannot understand the psychological and emotional effects of a cancer diagnosis. How can they if they haven’t been touched by cancer?

      For me, I always ask why me? Why am I still here? It obviously isn’t my time yet. Anyway, I have a lot more writing to do!!

      So glad you are writing again. You have a talent, and so many young people can learn from your journey. Well done Sam 🙂

  2. I don’t feel guilty about facing each day and living the best I can. As I write this, as a friend of mine is deteriorating terribly with stage 4 lung cancer. My heart goes out to her, I visit, we talk, but we each have our own path to walk. No one can walk in someone else’s shoes. No one can understand if there is any rhyme or reason to this.

    It’s interesting. People don’t see me as “sick”. I don’t let them see the nausea, the fear, or the fatigue that goes along with the chemo and the cancer. People say I look great (I should; the chemo keeps me nauseous and I can’t eat!) and am fit (I work at it–it helps dispel the fatigue and keeps me going). I personally think that truly living in the moment is the most one can do and that should never carry any guilt.

    Carpe Diem!

    Pat Wetzel
    Anti-Cancer Club

    • Hi Pat

      You are right there. No one can travel this journey except us, and we do it in the best way we can. There is no rhyme or reason to it at all. So sorry to hear about your friend.

      My situation is similar to yours in many ways. Although I don’t have chemo, but maintenance blood treatment. People say the same to me, but I think it is more comfortable to say that you look well. It really is difficult for others to know how to react.

      You are right about living in the moment. It took me a long time to get into that mindset. There are sometimes when I am pleasantly surprised what tomorrow brings me!

      Thanks for your comments. It is very helpful when people read how others are feeling. Take care Pat, Chris

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