Survivor guilt. You have all heard of it. It can happen anytime one person survives a tragedy when others don’t. It can also happen when a person survives a devastating illness such as cancer. It can happen to the survivor and it can happen to the family of the survivor. With cancer, there are survivors but there are also many who lose their battle with the disease.
As a parent of a survivor, I have found myself experiencing this type of guilt when hearing of others who have lost their children to cancer. There are times that I have wanted to share Amber’s story of being a cancer survivor but I have kept it to myself. I never want to make someone who has lost a child feel bad because mine survived. That is survivor guilt.
Amber and I had never discussed the subject of survivor guilt until recently. For the most part, Amber has never wanted to discuss her cancer much at all. It would come up when it was time for her annual visits or if she happened to be seeing a new doctor. Other than that, we just really didn’t talk about it much. When the subject of survivor guilt came up recently, I was surprised to hear that Amber has experienced survivor guilt herself. She thought I knew she had and I honestly thought she hadn’t. To know she had felt those things without ever sharing with anyone bothers me. I never wanted her cancer to define who she is but I have wanted it to always be a part of who she is. It seems that it has been more a part of her life than I even realized.
As Amber and I talked that day, I realized that survivor guilt may always be a part of our lives. We just have to remember that everyone has a purpose and we don’t always understand that purpose. Sometimes you win your fight and survive, sometimes you don’t. Either way, you are fulfilling your purpose on this earth. Survivors need to remember that it is okay to have these feelings but you definitely need to share them with someone. Sharing helps everyone.
I will forever be grateful that my daughter survived her battle with cancer. Why she was chosen to survive, we may never know, but I do know that it was for a reason. As she has grown into a beautiful young woman who now works in the healthcare field, she will have her experiences to continue to shape her life…as a survivor.