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The Question I Ask as a Cancer Survivor Instead 'Why Me?'

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When I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, I didn’t ask why I got cancer. Why wouldn’t it be me? Cancer doesn’t care who you are. It’s very generous in the way it gives.

What I do ask myself every day is why I survived and someone else didn’t. Why didn’t I have to struggle through major surgeries, hospitalizations, chemotherapy, profound loss on so many levels — a body that would never function or look the same? I didn’t have to say goodbye.

No one had to lose me a little each day. I am so thankful for my cancer journey, but I also have survivor’s guilt that has settled in my brain and heart.

Sometimes I feel, because I did not suffer as much as others, my cancer was less than, as if it wasn’t horrible enough to justify any amount of attention, worry or written words. Survivor’s guilt makes it difficult for me to call myself a fighter or survivor worthy of pink ribbons. But just thinking this minimizes the experience of so many women like myself whose breast cancer journey included a lumpectomy, radiation and medication. It minimizes the fear and worry my family experienced while they walked beside me during this journey. It minimizes the work of those who dedicated their lives to treating and supporting people with cancer. And it minimizes every mile walked to find a cure.

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I want tell survivors, especially myself, that their experience was profound and life-altering, that every worry and tear were justified, that their journey was not less than –that they are not less than for having survived when someone else didn’t. Their story is inspiring and impactful, especially to those who are just starting their journey. I want to tell them it was no easy feat to summon all their strength and endurance to reach the end, no matter what the ending meant for them. I want to say there is no room for guilt because surviving cancer is not offensive or malicious — it was not stolen from someone else.

I want to ask them to replace guilt with peace, compassion, and an appreciation of every joyful moment.

Having written these words, I realize I can ask the guilt to release its hold on me. I can refuse to minimize my experience. I am a cancer survivor.

Follow my journey on my blog “Forever Sassy” at and follow me on The Mighty.

Photo by Angiola Harry on Unsplash

Originally published: October 7, 2020
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