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Survivor’s Guilt: The Love is Real

by Melissa BlankBrain CancerOctober 19, 2020View more posts from Melissa Blank

I am fairly new to this Cancer community. I was only diagnosed about a year ago, when my neurosurgeon told me that my cancer is incurable, it put me in a headspace of fear. I started my blog fairly soon after that, but it was more for me than anything. I was not ready to join this terrible yet somehow amazing club.

I hid in the sidelines. Not ready to make cancer friends. I was so afraid of making cancer friends and having them die on me. I was so afraid of dying. I was not prepared to lose a friend like that.

I’d like to think that I’m too young to have to worry about my friends dying. In the meantime, I’ve actually joined the so-called cancer community, and made some really incredible friends. I never expected to be able to open myself up like this. I slowly stepped away from the sidelines. I’ve learned so much. I have discovered better parts of myself by being able to participate. And while I have my friends, my cancer friends understand in a different way. But there is a weird thing that feels very uncomfortable to admit. There’s survivor’s guilt, and that seems like a reasonably common experience for people in this community.

Sometimes, I feel like a fraud, like an impostor, a fake. I have cancer.

But I have been incredibly fortunate, lucky, blessed, in that I have not lost a single person to cancer. I have not lost a single cancer friend to cancer. I have not had a single friend die in the last year. I had been so caught up in thinking that there was no point in making friends, because we are all going to die anyway. How selfish of me. To think like that. Here I am, with regular texts and Zoom calls, young adult community building and generally supporting each other, and we are surviving. I hate to admit this—I think this is my biggest issue.

I feel so guilty for holding back and closing myself off to the possibilities of support and community, because I mostly thought I might be dead by now.

My nihilistic altitude kept me separate from the rest. And even now, I worry so much about my cancer friends. It hurts my heart when they share about bad scans, bad lab results, bad chemo days.
But in finally opening myself up to these amazing people, I found that they worry about me too. We check in on each other. We are there for each other. I know that eventually I will have that one experience that everyone has. The cold hard truth is that everyone dies eventually.

In becoming close with my cancer friends, I can truly say that I just want us all to live forever, without pain, and without the scars of our diagnoses holding us back. It took me a long time, but missing out on a seemingly universal, experience is an incredible blessing. That doesn’t make me a fraud. I got my own ticket for admission into this club. No more feeling guilty. There is enough of that going around. Eventually, someone may feel survivor’s guilt on my behalf. Hopefully not for a very long time.

For now, I take my joy where I can find it. Until then I take one step at a time. Like an addict I take one day at a time. I spread my love to my friends, my community, my loved ones—not one at a time, but wherever I can and whenever I can. No more feeling like a fraud and no more holding back, just in case.

The love is real.

All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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