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My Cancer Guilt

Sara Hawkins, Ovarian Germ Cell Cancer Survivor.

Sara Hawkins, ovarian germ cell cancer
Sara Hawkins, Ovarian Germ Cell Cancer Survivor

Rewind 3 years. I was told I had ovarian cancer, at the age of 35. Those words shook my world. In those initial seconds, I wondered – is this it? Is this how I am going to die?

At that time, if I could’ve had a crystal ball and knew what my future held…..that I was going to beat cancer and in actual fact, that the chemotherapy that was originally planned wouldn’t be required due to successful surgeries, I would have told you that this would make me the luckiest girl in the world.

What I would not have counted on or believed is the concept of cancer guilt.

Now let’s get this straight. I DO feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I count my blessings every single day.

But cancer guilt is a thing!

It is difficult as to articulate my feelings around this, but this is too important to not talk about. I know there will be others out there who are going through the same, so I am going to try.

So how has this manifested for me?

From the moment I was diagnosed, there has been an undercurrent of guilt. I couldn’t believe what I was about to put my friends and family through. I felt terrible that they would have to see me looking so ill and fear losing me. I found myself apologising all of the time when I couldn’t do things while I was trying to recover from my surgeries.

Being in a cancer unit also makes you feel guilty. You see others in a worse position than you. How dare you feel sorry for yourself? Things could always be worse. You are on this constant drive to remain positive and get through your journey, but you can’t help but think about others on their less fortunate cancer path.

As much as I have always been thrilled and felt so lucky about the prospect of no chemotherapy, I feel as though my cancer is not as significant or meaningful. I speak to cancer patients who are enduring chemotherapy or indeed the long lasting effects of it. Who am I to complain? How did I manage to not need it and then there is somebody else who does? This pales my cancer into insignificance. People call me a cancer warrior. I feel like a fraud.

The worst kind of guilt is survivor’s guilt. Being at a funeral or speaking to a family who have lost their loved one. Feeling sheepish about surviving is not fun.

I talk about this because our feelings are valid, whatever journey you have been on. Cancer has a huge mental and physical impact on us, our perceptions and actions, in whatever form that may take.

When I dig deep, reflect, I know that I AM a cancer warrior and although guilt is a part of my life, it should never ever consume me. I acknowledge it, give it a cheeky smile and move on with my day.

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