Randi Rentz: Survivor’s Guilt

As we all all coming off of the excitement and possible exhaustion of the holidays to ring in the New Year, the LBBC Blog is happy to welcome back recurring writer, Randi Rentz, and she discusses a topic that many diagnosed women have experienced–Survivor’s Guilt–and how she plans to let it go.  Along with Randi, we here at LBBC wish everyone a beautiful and joyous New Year with health, happiness and hope in the future.

Have you ever wondered why you were diagnosed with cancer? If you have, stop it right now! I’m serious. I’ve never wondered why I was diagnosed with cancer. I can truly say that is an honest statement. Many people have asked me, “Why on earth would you, a young, healthy, happy person with no family history of breast cancer get breast cancer?” Even when other people wondered, I never have.  In my mind and heart I figured that “Why?” wasn’t the point. I had “The Big C.”  I had to deal with it. I had to move on and look ahead.

Since my diagnosis, I have had four friends die of cancer and another one who will die soon. All were young, healthy and happy people. Some had no family history, while others did have a family history.

My question is: “Why did I get what I got (a treatable cancer) and they get what they got (a life limiting form of cancer)?” Do you know I think about this Every. Single. Day. Sometimes this thought makes me feel so morose. Sometimes it makes me feel anxious. Sometimes it makes me feel remorseful.

This is Randi

As I think about my friend who is fading, I’ve come to realize what’s going on: I am experiencing a version of survivor guilt, yet again. It is common to feel guilty about having survived when others died. Now, this typically refers to catastrophic events such as 911 or an earthquake or some other disaster (no reason to go on with examples and make myself feel shoddier!). I happen to think that a cancer diagnosis (of any kind!) is pretty darn earth shattering. Don’t you? When I received my diagnosis, my world stopped. Completely.

What I’ve learned is that this feeling of guilt is part of being human. For me, it is a way of searching for the meaning of my survival vs. another person’s fatality. Normalizing these feelings doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, though. There are no two ways to say it. Anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis is forever changed. There. I said it.

When I lost my first friend to cancer, I felt paralyzed. Sessions with a social worker helped me be productive and rational. I certainly did not want to continue to go down an unfortunate road every time I lost someone I cared about.

Today, I admit my survivor guilt still brings a few issues. For some people, survivor guilt can cause despair, rage, and guilt that may even compromise their physical health and well-being. UGH.

Believe me I’m thrilled to be where I am. I’m able to speak to other people about cancer and their emotions and feel so fortunate. I really do. I don’t know what’s in my future. None of us does. I can tell you through this ordeal, I have faced uncertainties, challenges, and sorrow. I know that I have also learned lessons I couldn’t have learned any other way.

What I know for sure is that life is a precious gift; however after losing my mother to cancer, I actually already knew that…I guess it’s just been reiterated – in a BIG WAY. For now, it’s my time to live.

To learn more about Randi you can peruse her blog or read excepts from her book, Why Buy a Wig…When You Can Buy Diamonds!, when you visit her website.

4 Responses to “Randi Rentz: Survivor’s Guilt”

  1. Cindy Says:

    Wow! Amazing. Thank you for putting this in print…….. I feel it every single day!

  2. Rose Says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I too feel survivor guilt even thought I have suffered from so many recurrences and subsequent surgeries and treatments. But I’m still alive. My mother and sister in law died of the disease. An aunt asked me at the recent funeral of my brother’s wife what was so special about me having survived for 28 years. I didn’t know what to say but the survival guilt is worse than ever now.
    I realize I must work through this by reading more about this and further exploring the issue with a therapist.

  3. mich6677 Says:

    Thank you, Randi, for elucidating how I feel. I have recently finished treatment for my second primary bc (successfully, fingers and toes crossed), whereas my dear friend Suzy died last year from a lower grade bc. I not only feel guilty that I’m here and she’s not (why have I been able to dodge a bullet, twice?), but also that I should have done more for her. I think about her every day.

  4. news feed Says:

    Hello! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa? My blog discusses a lot of the same topics as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Great blog by the way!

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