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Cancer survivorship can be one of the most emotional times of your life. Here you are, finished with treatment — now what? You may be wondering how life will go on.
Although happy to be alive, you may also find yourself overwhelmed with feelings of regret and guilt. If you’re questioning your coulda, shoulda, wouldas in your life after treatment has ended, you aren’t alone.
Cancer survivors can feel guilt at various times. During treatment, you may feel guilty about being a burden on your caregivers. Later, you may feel guilty about those who have not been as fortunate. Why did you survive while a friend and fellow patient did not? This is often referred to as survivor’s guilt.
Perhaps your friend had the same type of cancer and treatment. The earlier “Why me?” now becomes “Why not me?”
Many people who overcome a traumatic event — including a long-term illness such as cancer— face survivor guilt. Survivor guilt can come in the form of regret, blame, sadness or depression. It can cause symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, irritability and loss of motivation.
Letting go of these feelings can help improve your well-being and your ability to cope with life after cancer. Try some of these strategies to reduce guilty feelings:
You survived cancer. Give yourself a moment to appreciate that fact. You won’t be able to live life to the fullest if you dwell on things that are out of your control. Try to let go of the guilt, look ahead and enjoy this precious life.
If you find that guilt impacts your ability to function in daily life, let your doctor know. Your doctor may recommend you seek the support of a professional counselor to help manage your emotions.
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