The Guilt of Surviving Cancer

The Guilt of Surviving Cancer Kathryn Davis

I survived cancer, and I sometimes wonder why I was spared.

by Kathryn Davis

Survivor guilt is a real thing. Those of us living with cancer have seen some horrors. We’ve managed to stick around while others, even those with the same type of cancer, didn’t make it. We feel guilty for being grateful that we’re the “lucky ones.” Don’t get me wrong; we are grateful. But that doesn’t stop us from wondering: Why me? Why was I spared while others’ lives were taken?

My mother-in-law died of cancer a few months after I was diagnosed. She was a good person. She didn’t deserve this. She was needed in this world. Yet I am still here fighting on. Why?

It’s not that I want to die; I don’t! I am terrified of leaving my children without a mother. It’s not even that I think I don’t deserve to be spared. I know in my heart and soul that I have a purpose here. But there are so many people who seem better than I am, who deserve to survive cancer too. It just doesn’t seem fair.

I want to somehow make my survival worthy of the years I’ve been given.

I have known my cancer had a purpose and would be used for good since the day I was diagnosed. I feel like I’ve been given a mission to help others. And, while I feel proud to be chosen, I’m scared at the same time. Once my mission is complete, does that mean my life will then be over?

As a Christian, I know I am in God’s hands. I have no doubt about that. He is control; not me. But I want to make those who’ve gone on before me proud of what I have done in cancer’s name. I want to somehow make my survival worthy of the years I’ve been given.

I don’t take this lightly, surviving cancer this long while others have not. And I am incredibly grateful for every day

I am given. I try not to feel so guilty for my gift of life. Yet, the guilt still creeps in.

It helps me to acknowledge the feeling of guilt, give it a moment, say a prayer for those who’ve passed, and then keep moving. It’s important to move forward and not dwell. We have survived cancer for a reason. Let’s not waste precious time questioning it. Let’s honor those who have passed, by living the best life we can for as long as we can. This is how we can make our survival worthy.


Kathryn Davis is a metastatic breast cancer survivor living in Riverside, CA.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2020.

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