Survivors Guilt and the anxiety of relapse

Every day when I wake up for the past week I’ve felt exhausted and like a truck has rolled over me. I’m not getting good sleep and my mattress isn’t the best, but my brain lies to me, it convinces me I’m in the middle of a relapse from AML, which I fought last year at a local children’s hospital. If my period is heavy or I get a bruise simply because I’m a klutz, I’m convinced my platelets are low, I’m relapsing. If I’m tired a lot because of inadequate sleep or sore from exercise my brain still tells me I’m relapsing. I go to the doctor once a month for a check up, and the week or two prior is absolute hell because I’m sure that they’ll find something and I’ll have to give up everything I love. I have a new job which I love so much, but I’ve already planned the speech in my head that I’ll give to my boss when I relapse. At this point my chance of relapse is only 30%. Yet I’m always so sure it’s going to happen.
One of the other hardest parts is the survivors guilt. I can’t understand why I’m still here. I shouldn’t be, but somehow I am. Yet yesterday a 6 year old with her whole life ahead of her, with all her smiles and sass is gone. A mother has lost her child, her brother and sister are now without their sibling. It doesn’t make any sense. The guy I had a crush on earned his wings in August, yet I’m still here. A seven year old boy left his brother an only child. My friend is suffering from a relapse but I’m still allowed to continue my life. I don’t get why, and sometimes it’s so hard to understand why. Why am I any better than them?

Hey Bree,

Man, this is so rough…it’s living in this constant paranoia of things on the cusp of spiraling downward again to the lowest of lows…I don’t blame you for feeling that way at all. I’d be afraid of returning to the pit of despair too. I’m really sorry you’re in that place :\

I don’t think that remission / survival is based on “deserving” – you don’t DESERVE this pain you’re in. Those people don’t DESERVE the pain they’re in either. It’s just part of life on this broken planet…I know it’s not much solace because I’m talking to you from my house with no illness, so it’s like – what does this guy know. Definitely take what I have to say with a grain of salt from my naïvety…but it’s not about deserving…you don’t get to live because you deserved it more than they did and they don’t die because they deserved it more than you did…it’s just…life…it just happens…some shit about this world really sucks, and you’re experiencing a side of it I’ve never had to go through, and I’m really sorry that you’re facing this daily reality of suffering you can’t control or solve. It’s not because you did anything wrong.

But I would encourage you to look to find hope. Because if you ARE going to live, honor the people you’ve seen fall by living a life of hope. You don’t deserve to be in misery the rest of your life. I found hope reading this book, giving context for the suffering that we face and the hope that we have in the midst of it. It changed my life and my hope and my daily experience. Please get it. And if you can’t get it, email me, and I’ll find a way to get you one: [email protected]

Hold fast friend. Your life matters.


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