This is a post I have wanted to write for a long time now but for one reason or another I haven’t. Events in recent weeks however, have made it feel more relevant than ever now.
A few years before I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time I wrote to my childhood doctor and the man who saved my life first time round, Dr Craft.
I wanted to give him an update about what kind of person I had become. We hadn’t been in touch since I was a child but something compelled me to write to him and let him know that I grown up to be a good person.
In my message I told him how I now worked for the police as a Crime Scene Investigator and helped catch criminals. I told him I was a good person, who loved his family and was nice to people. He was very good to myself and my family when I was ill and I guess I just wanted him to know that I was now doing some good in the world by helping others.
There were many reasons I did this but perhaps the main one was to help justify my own existence. Fingers crossed you are not reading this thinking that i’m a total nutter but after meeting so many people who have either lost someone or who have come through a traumatic time, i’m guessing not.
The truth is I have always felt guilty about surviving cancer. Much like PTSD, I had always associated survivors guilt with war and veterans. Soldiers who had lost their friends and colleagues and found it difficult to understand why they had survived when others didn’t.
When I meet people who have lost someone to cancer I immediately want to curl up into a ball and not mention anything about myself or 101 Things To Do When You Survive.
After surviving cancer for the second time and then struggling with PTSD, my self loathing was at its worst. How dare I feel so sad and scared when so many others had lost their life to cancer. I absolutely hated myself for feeling this way.
When I came up with the idea of 101 so many doubts went through my mind. Would my story be seen as scare mongering, would it upset people with cancer and would admitting how scared and sad I felt after surviving cancer upset those who lost someone to this awful disease.
These fears were fully realised when my story was in the press in 2013 – 2014. Along with thousands of positive and lovely messages, I also received a few negative ones.
Some called me smug whilst others said it wasn’t fair that I had survived when their loved ones didn’t. Some just missed the point and berated me for having the money to do go on my trip.
The positive comments far outweighed the negative ones but in true Amazon and Trip Advisor style it was the negative ones that had the greatest impact. I wished I hadn’t let them get to me so much at the time. I know who I am and what I was trying to do. I was always taught growing up… ‘when you are dealt a lemon, make lemonade’ so that’s what i’ve tried to do.
I, like many seem to feel guilty on a daily basis. My Facebook and Twitter accounts are filled with things about cancer which sometimes really gets to me and makes me feel sick and sometimes bad for posting a happy photo or story. The truth is, like many others, I feel happiest when I feel like i’m helping someone but I am also sent so many fundraising requests that I feel awful for not helping with them all.
Over the past few years I have met many people who have lost friends or relatives far too early. One woman, who lost her son told me that sometimes she sometimes catches herself when she feels happy as she feels guilty because he isn’t there anymore.
Survivors guilt is a very real and awful thing and something nobody should feel.
I have been doing a lot of thinking about this over the past year and especially this past week. I am truly tired of feeling guilty and bad about myself.
I thought about how I would want people to react if I had died. I most certainly wouldn’t want them to feel bad or guilty. That would break my heart. I would only want to see them happy and to enjoy the life that has been given to them.
None of us should feel guilty about surviving anything at all. I said this in a recent post but it is so true, we really do owe it to those that we have lost to live the best and happiest lives we possibly can. Otherwise what is the point in living at all.
The main reason I’m sharing this is to let people know that they are not alone in feeling this way and you are certainly not crazy. Us humans are an odd bunch and our minds are very tricky things indeed. Acknowledging survivors guilt can be the first step in overcoming it.
Live the best and happiest life you can gang. You deserve it I promise you…. we all do. The people who aren’t still here would want that for you.