Survivor Guilt

It happens every time.

I learned this week that a co-worker lost someone he loves to cancer, and immediately the survivor guilt sets in. I wonder as I have thousands of times before…why am I still here and (she) isn’t.

What makes me so special that I was “Pitched Back” as Lance Armstrong put it? It seems normal for me to feel this way having been where she was, to some degree. (we didn’t have the same cancer)

Was I pitched back for a reason? Soon after kicking my two cancers I had my own bracelets made that read: SECOND CHANCE MISSION and on the other side LIVE LIFE BETTER. But what does any of this mean?

It hits me square in the chest every time I hear someone has lost their fight. In the same few weeks or months my wife lost a family member and so did I. Everyone mentioned in this post lost their fight with cancer, or complications from it. Each of them had pneumonia and seems didn’t have the immune system to fight it.

I wrestle with being a survivor a lot. I feel a certain responsibility having beaten not one…but two. (I was diagnosed on December 19th 2006 with Renal Cell Carcinoma and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma)

Surgery on January 2nd 2007 removed the kidney and 6 months of chemo followed. I have been in remission since May 18th 2007.

And as of this moment, still no word from my Oncologist if their appeal to the insurance company will let my next PET/CT scan fly…they denied this one because they (the insurance company) decided it is not medically necessary. They don’t want to pay for images to confirm that “my body is still cancer free”.

…I am by no means free of cancer. That much is evident because of the bouts of survivor guilt that crop up like it did this week.

I have to believe at some point, some day I will figure out what I am still here for. Why did God and Science save my life and keep me breathing oxygen? When I hear someone has lost their battle with this stupid fucking disease my skin crawls a little bit and I am reminded (as if I need to be) that I was there. I wore their shoes and sat in that infusion room and was miserable a few hours later and in a shitty mood for the days afterward.

I have my scars. Cancer is quickly becoming a chronic disease, survival rates appear to be improving, people are living longer…but not for everyone. I received an E-mail from that mentioned the following:

“The fact is, we are facing an unprecedented crisis – cancer will soon be the #1 killer in the world and experts predict that by 2030, 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with the disease. A world where every other person has to fight cancer? In our lifetime?  We cannot let that happen.”

THAT IS EVERY OTHER PERSON! It sickens me to look at my friends and/or family and mentally count who in the room has already had it or has it and then imagine who is going to get it…every other person???


Hopefully some of the articles I have read recently are correct and maybe some forms of cancer will be classified like diabetes is…as a chronic disease. Hopefully science will find a way to make it easier to detect and maybe, a little easier to beat.

I don’t believe you can prevent it, but you can detect it earlier and deal with it sooner and hopefully, beat it into remission. There is certainly no known cure for cancer, they should stop looking for it and get on with finding a way to make living with it as easy as possible. The i2y folks (I’m too young for this) have focused on the goal being disease management and I have to belive that is the way to go.

Unless the answer lies in some undiscovered flower in the rain forest somewhere there will never be a cure and I will have to deal with survivor guilt from time to time. It’s just par for the course.

Be Well

Published in: on December 8, 2009 at 10:21 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thanks for the mention! Stupid cancer! MZ

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