I have had a conversation with different people about the same topic, guilt, a few times this week. I always wonder why that happens Did I steer the conversation in that direction because it’s on my mind? Was it a coincidence? Anyhow, I thought I might try to write about guilt. I hope it may help you.
Feeling guilty is often associated with a feeling of shame or regret. It’s not easy to try to make sense of the whirlwind of feelings and thoughts that you may have when you have survived or are living with cancer:
- Could I have noticed symptoms earlier or gone to the doctor sooner?
- Did my lifestyle choices or habits increase my risk of developing cancer?
- Why didn’t my treatment work the way I had hoped?
- Why did I survive when others have not?
- Am I a burden to my family or caregivers? (Sorry we needed to cancel our family trip, boys!)
- How will I handle the financial costs of treatment?
- What will my boss and coworkers think about all of the time I have to spend time away from work for treatment?
Caregivers may also feel guilty. They are healthier and may wish to to take the place of the cancer survivor. Often they regret that they can’t do more to help or even take away the pain or illness. Also, they may hide their feelings/thoughts, since they do not want to put more stress on the survivor. They may skip out on fun outings to avoid stinging the survivor who cannot join.
Feelings of guilt are normal and can come and go. Working through them will allow you to release them so they don’t interfere with your well-being and healing. Several tips to allow you to help yourself with this are outlined here. Finding ways to soothe, comfort, and distract yourself by engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation may help. Sharing your thoughts/feelings in a journal or with people who care about you can be beneficial, too. However, if guilt paralyzes you, causing social isolation or preventing you from functioning, you should talk with your healthcare provider who can connect you with a talk therapist and/or a local support group.
Remember that cancer is not your fault—or anyone else’s. Experts do not fully understand why most types of cancer develop. Sometimes people with cancer feel guilty about having given their “bad genes” to their children or having made bad lifestyle choices in the past, such as cigarette smoking. In these situations, please tell yourself that:
- Even though we live in the 21st century, there are so many things in our body’s black box that we still don’t understand.
- We cannot always control nature, no matter how much we try.
- Our previous decisions made sense at the time, driven by knowledge and circumstances.
- We are not perfect. We must forgive ourselves.
This brings us to the next topic that can get me really fired up: stigma! Sadly, certain cancers are more associated with stigma than others, in particular those to which we attribute a certain sense of responsibility (e.g. nicotine and lung cancer). However, not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer, and not everyone who gets lung cancer has smoked, which attests to the notion that there are so many different factors involved in the development of cancer that are beyond our control. Plus, over time we may discover that many of today’s widely-accepted practices might need to be changed since they may be found to be associated with the development of diseases. I don’t feel there is any room for judgment, because it usually does not result in anything meaningful or positive.
Furthermore, you may feel an urge or even obligation to find a purpose in the ‘extra’ time you were given. Or is it the other way around—were we spared for a purpose that we may not know about yet? We will never know. We all tell our own story in a way that gives our lives meaning and purpose.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Source.
Enjoy creating and telling your life story! Please be kind to yourself and others!
Thank you for visiting me! Please, below find a few things to educate and entertain you!
Learn and Think:
It’s cucumber time, or a slow-medical news-season. Give your brain a rest!
Live and Feel:
Two men who died at a young age from pancreatic cancer gave inspiring lectures that I would like to share with you:
- Steve Jobs’ Stanford 2015 commencement address.
- Randy Pausch gave his ‘last lecture – a love story for your life‘ at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007, which led to a book and a song.
Please help by nudging us if you encounter technical problems.