I have been reading a blog here (which blog unfortunately I cannot remember now) where the blogger was feeling a “survivor guilt” because s/he had early stage cancer, was now doing well, but was nevertheless feeling guilty of surviving while many others did not.
I have been hearing survivor guilt in cancer patients for some time. I wonder whether it is used to cover overlapping but distinct concepts?
The wikipedia entry for survivor guilt, although not specific for cancer, explains it; notice how different it is; i.e. those feeling survivor guilts blaming themselves for the death of others.
In cancer, I do not think any of the cancer survivors blame themselves for the death of others. But I know from many survivors that they will not feel good about their own survival (at least time to time) when they see others who are lost to this disease. It may be one of the reasons driving the patient advocacy, fundraising events, and support groups with which cancer patients and others affected by this disease relentlessly work to control and to reduce the burden of cancer (thank you all).
To me, this is different than the survivor guilt expressed by some cancer patients diagnosed with early-stage cancers or good/easy cancers (I do not appreciate this classification by the way), such as thyroid cancer, which generally have relatively good survival rates. I sense that this guilt is different. I kind of feel like some patients may blame themselves for not going through the same serious ordeal as other patients, such as advanced cancer patients do (multiple surgeries, chemo, and radiotherapy, recurrences, unavailability of effective treatment options etc..).
Do the doctors, media, and others who categorize these cancers/patients as easy to treat/cure have a role in this survivor guilt and somehow lead some patients to be apologetic about their own survival? Is this comparison among different cancers even useful or healthy?
I care about all affected by cancer regardless of their prognosis and I said it many times, only because it is true that, cancer affects all of us. In so many different levels. I just wished noone was apologetic about surviving cancer. Let’s continue to direct our collective efforts to help effective control and treatment of this disease in every cancer patient.