Survivor’s Guilt?

I got some good news today, my brain MRI came back looking good, still have the one tumor, but no new ones and no alarming changes. This tumor doesn’t really have any effects on me or affect my life at all (as long as I continue my seizure meds), so it’s not concerning that it’s still there. So between this and my near-perfect PET scan that showed my mets are still inactive, this is great…right?

If I had to try to figure this out, I’d say I’m feeling some mix of gratitude, elation, relief, confusion, and, well, guilt.

Honestly, I never thought survivor’s guilt would be something I would have to deal with. First of all, the progression of my cancer earlier in this year didn’t leave a lot of wiggle room in the “survival” area. And second, you’re still alive, so you should be happy, right? And here I am, surviving!

But some people aren’t.

I had heard of the concept of survivor’s guilt before but assumed it was more of a passing feeling of like “Oh, wow, I’m still here and they aren’t, I should count my blessings.” But this is very different than that. It’s not a reassurance, it’s a true feeling of guilt, very much like I did something wrong.

I got great news today, and on the same day I got that great news, my friend’s husband lost his battle with cancer. He was 28. Has 2 kids the exact same ages as mine. It’s just…not fair. It’s not ok. This isn’t ok! I know so much of this life is not trying to understand and just trusting, but I feel so much anger right now. I know that it’s misguided, but I can’t help but look up and question Him. Mike was a believer, so for that we celebrate, but I get angry thinking about the things his family must now face without him.

I don’t know why I’m still here, I’m no more valuable or any more special than anyone else, I don’t deserve it more than anyone else, I just can’t shake this awful feeling.

I’m reminded of Simon Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus three times before his crucifixion. Now, I’m no psychologist, but I imagine that Peter felt a huge sense of guilt there. He had told Jesus he was ready to die for Him! And not only did Jesus tell him that that wasn’t the case, He rightly told Peter that he would deny Him three times. My point is, when Christ comes back and is speaking to Peter, the opportunity is given to make it right, so to speak. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, to which Peter replies some form of “Yes” and each time Jesus tells him, “then feed my sheep.”

We are here to take care of each other, to encourage each other, to lift each other up. People always do such a great job of that for me, and I’m about to start being a whole lot more intentional with how I do it for others.

I know it’s not really anything I did to make me feel like this, but it is something I can use.

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22 thoughts on “Survivor’s Guilt?

  1. Kim, I am so glad to hear that you received good news. I praise God for that… and I do agree, that it is SO hard to understand how He works in our lives. When I began to regain my health even a little, I was so relieved… but it made my heart break all the more for those I was connecting with who were still suffering so badly. I too had to bring that to God and just let my heart break before Him. Suffering is hard, period. But like Paul and all the crazy trials he faced to spread the gospel, God used him for amazing purposes further … and so we “keep up the courage.” 🙂

  2. You are a true inspiration to a lot of people you know and don’t know! Sevens years ago I lost my sister to breast cancer and every year when she was living on my birthday I would feel that guilt too! Just because I was an age that my sister would never be. Who was I to be well and not sick as my sister was fighting for her life. I have come to realize that God wants us to embrace and celebrate each year, each day that we are here. You are certainly here for a really BIG reason and I do believe that is to inspire others who are struggling. For this is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it! Especially as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! May I meet you in glory someday!

    1. I am so sorry for what you went through with your sister, sometimes things are just so unclear to us, I suppose that’s for a reason. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, I hope you have a great Christmas!!

  3. Praise God for your good news! “I know the plans I have for you declares The Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. May God fill you with peace as you continue to grow and allow Him to use you in His plans. I am sorry about the loss of your friend. But his life and death were part of God’s bigger plan. We may not understand it and I am sure and know from experience that it hurts so much. All we can and must do is trust in God. Someday we will know why it had to happen. Praying for you each day.

  4. Kim, I’m so glad for you that you’re feeling well and got a good report, for your sake and your husband’s and children’s.
    About what you hope to do in His strength with this gift He gave you:
    Ephesians 2:10
    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
    Ask Him to show you His will and invest your strength and love in these things.
    Maria

  5. Kim,

    Your words are beautiful. And I know me telling not to feel guilty will not make the feeling go away for you. But, I do know that God’s plan for Michael is very different than God’s plan for you. And he has been birthed into this beautiful, perfect place. And your work here isn’t finished.

    And, if I may be a little morbid, if I had any doubts about the existence of God and heaven, the smile on his face and the peaceful look he had when he passed would have erased all of those doubts. I KNOW I will meet him at the gates of heaven on day.

    ~Heather

    1. Heather, I’ve been avoiding responding because I just didnt know what to say. You are one of the strongest people I know, and though I know there will be times of unimaginable brokeness for you, you are still encouraging others. And what you said didn’t sound morbid at all, it’s really beautiful and I’m glad you got to witness that ❤ We are praying for you and the kids unceasingly

  6. Praising God for your WONDERFUL results, and can COMPLETELY relate to Survivor Guilt….I”ve been going through it since my Beloved, best freind, amazing sister Charleen went to heaven just 7 short months ago, April 25th, 2014, yet my heart physically still hurts. Logically we are still here because God’s purpose and plan for our lives has not come to completion yet, but the heart doesn’t understand that when you feel angry, alone, sad, confused, GUiLTY because God didn’t take you instead. Let’s keep focusing on the POSITIVES My Friend….that both my sister and your friend are PAIN FREE, Rejoicing with the Lord, Loved Ones and Angels and having a GRAND old time in their completely healthy bodies. When I feel as you do, which is still a lot, I remind myself that I WILL see my sister and all my loved ones in heaven when we all spend ETERNITY together, never again separated, just loving and being together with the LORD 🙂 Praying for you…{{{hugs}}}

    1. Amen Andrea!! You are just so right and have such an amazing perspective and attitude! I actually couldnt bring myself to read the comments on this one until today because I felt so down about it. I’m so sorry about your sister but grateful for your wisdom and perspective. You ever consider writing a blog?? (:

  7. Well, Kim, while reading your piece on survivor’s guilt and these responses, it seems your work is only beginning to bear the wonderful fruit of your sacrifice. As a long time hospice nurse and a student of suffering, I have been learning to give every doubt, every feeling of guilt and every question of how and why God does things, directly to Him. I have studied and follow the life of Joni Eareksen Tada who has suffered greatly as a quadreplegic for 47 years including breast cancer and intense back pain. She has written more than 20 books, many of which deal directly with suffering and the meaning of it in this life. It is all about others. So is your healing. It is for others. You have already begun to minister to people in ways others cannot. I am so touched by Heather’s response. I knew her as a child in our church. I have not meet her husband. What a wonderful testimony she has with joy even at the death of her beloved husband. That makes me weep all the more. Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. I feel the same way myself and realize that He has me stand in the gap for people on many occasions. You will too. It is a calling and a unique blessing few can understand. It is obvious to me that you have a following already and are pointing the way to The Only ONE who can heal us in mind, body, will and emotion in this life. I rejoice with you and your family. You have a powerful testimony of the power of prayer!

    1. Wow Char, you really have a way of saying things, it’s always beautiful and truthful and encouraging, without being overly sappy as I sometimes tend to be haha. I so appreciate you and your gift of encouragement in love and truth

  8. Kim, you are not alone in this. All cancer survivors deal with the same feelings to one degree or another. Trust that God has a plan and a purpose for everything.

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