Surviving Survivor's Guilt

I had never heard the term “survivor's guilt” before I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Even months after diagnosis I did not know the term. As months went by, I connected with more and more survivors. All of us in different stages of our diagnoses form newly diagnosed to 10+ year survivors. I remember the first time someone that I met passed away. He was younger than me and we had met him and his wife at the Lungevity sponsored Hope Summit. We quickly became friends, and I followed his cancer story and their journey to get married via Facebook and Instagram. I learned what survivor's guilt was at that moment.

We all process loss in different ways

I always say that unless you have been through it you will not completely understand and even people who have been through it may cope differently. I have met a handful of people that survivor's guilt is just not a thing that concerns them and then on the flip side I have met many where it makes them rethink life choices, hide under the covers for days and not be able to cope with loss after loss.

For me, it is very hard when we lose someone in our lung cancer community. I have been in this world for almost seven years and it never gets easier. I have cried many a tear when I have heard the news. Sometimes it is hard to open up my social media in fear that I will see news of another passing.

I met another spunky redhead at Hope summit and while I did not follow up with her and her story she kept a close eye on me. We were Facebook friends and I knew she wasn’t doing well and that she had been on a pretty high dose of steroids to get through chemo. I remember a post from her on one of the nights that she couldn’t sleep due to the steroids and she was doing some patio gardening at 2 am. I had a giggle and thought that was a great use of her time if she couldn’t sleep!

Living with survivor's guilt

Survivor's guilt is a mental condition that occurs when a person believes they have done something wrong by surviving a traumatic or tragic event when others did not, often feeling self-guilt.

The best way that I have found to overcome my survivor's guilt is to remember those that we have lost. Talk about them with their family and friends, my family and friends, and fellow survivors. Continue to advocate for more lung cancer research as well as talking about lung cancer to anyone that will listen. We have a long way to go to get people to understand this is a disease of the lungs and that is all you need to get it. I will continue to talk about lung cancer and be an advocate for myself, those of us still in the fight, and for those of us that we have lost along the way. RIP John and Kim.

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