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  • Writer's pictureSophie Jackson

Survivors Guilt to the EXTREME

I have briefly mentioned survivors guilt on here before but it's basically the feeling of guilt from surviving cancer when others have not. At first I didn't really get this but since returning to work on a cancer ward this has massively been intensified!

It is SO hard to process. Recently it got very close to home as I looked after a patient who was diagnosed similar time to me and also very young. Sadly their treatment hadn't worked and they were receiving end of life care. I was very much involved in looking after this patient and being there when the sad news was given. It absolutely broke me. So hard to process how unfair life can be. I'm literally there supporting someone in pain ,having sickness and tears and I'm doing everything I can to ease the discomfort cancer can bring. Trying to make the last days as comfortable as possible. Yet I feel SO guilty.

Why am I still alive? Why didn't this happen to me? Is this going to happen to me? How is it fair that I'm here looking after this person when they're experiencing a premature end to their life and I'm here nursing them. HUGE MIND F*** The worst part about cancer is that it does not make sense. These mutated cancer cells can sometimes just happen at random for NO reason. Having nothing to blame for it is so hard and I've recently noticed my anger coming out over such stupid things as I really just need someone or something to blame! You just want answers to this crap!

Life recently has been put into perspective and I am starting to process and even realise how poorly I was. At the time you go into auto pilot. You just get to the next step in a methodical emotionless way just to get to the next appointment. Now life is returning to normal I am really suffering the mental struggles that the trauma has brought me.

When I was diagnosed and waiting for surgery it didn't even cross my mind at that point that the biopsy could have shown it had spread and could have lead me to a terminal diagnosis. That didn't even cross my mind. I was overwhelmed and in shock without even knowing it. Purely focusing on getting through the surgery as that's all my brain could manage. Our body's protect ourselves and chuck out any info that isn't needed at that time in order to survive.

Obviously, I am so grateful to still be here and to have had a successful outcome at the moment but now 3 months after finishing active treatment I am only just starting to process what even happened. I literally cried at the dinner table last night and said to my mum 'I was really poorly wasnt I'.. all triggered by a cancer research advert on tv.

I also had to call a patients family at the beginning of a shift as sadly they had passed away and of course it had to involve breast cancer. A job that I've unfortunately done in the past a few times became even more heart wrenching. Emotionally drained was an understatement. Trying to calm my brain and be brave and manage what was going on as well as all the usual unpredictable things the ward can bring was tough. Again the same thoughts... that could have been me? Why didn't this happen to me? Will this happen to me in the near future? Will my cancer come back? Is it back? The anxieties are triggered daily in my job.

Ultimately I powered through and did it but I was so poorly with stress the next day and the worst headaches. I know full well I need to be looking after myself after chemo as I am still recovering but it is so hard to make time for drinks and breaks when you are looking after others so poorly. I'm still suffering with the physical exhaustion too after chemo. I literally lost all my body strength and the 12 hour shifts are still a killer. It's very hard to explain to someone else how exhausted you are when you don't look any different and my god the hot flushes on hormone therapy are not fun 🥵.


Positive: My recent experiences at work have helped me find some closure in that changing my job was the right decision for me. We work to live, we don't live to work and having a balance is so important. Starting my new job as an Oncology Research Nurse in a months time is definitely right for me. Shorter days and less mental strain will hopefully help me heal from my trauma whilst also working within cancer care. Something that I loved before having cancer and after ❤️

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