Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Learning You Have Cancer: Guilt & Loneliness

Many people with cancer feel guilty. For example, you may blame yourself for upsetting the people you love. You may worry that you are a burden to others, either emotionally or financially. Or you may envy other people's good health and be ashamed of this feeling. 

You might even blame yourself for lifestyle choices that could have led to your cancer. These feelings are all normal. One woman with breast cancer said,

"When I start to feel guilty that I caused my illness, I think of how little children get cancer. That makes me realize that cancer can just happen. It isn't my fault."

Your family and friends may also feel guilty because:
  • they are healthy while you are sick
  • they can't help you as much as they want
  • they feel stressed and impatient
They may also feel guilty when they don't think they can give you all the care and understanding you need.
Counseling and support groups can help with these feelings of guilt. Let your doctor or nurse know if you, or someone in your family, would like to talk with a counselor or go to a support group.

It is also common for people with cancer often feel lonely or distant from others. You may find that your friends have a hard time dealing with your cancer and may not visit. Some people might not even be able to call you on the phone. You may feel too sick to take part in the hobbies and activities you used to enjoy. And sometimes, even when you are with people you love and care about, you may feel that no one understands what you are going through.

You may feel less lonely when you meet other people who have cancer. Many people feel better when they join a support group and talk with others who are facing the same challenges. 

Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.
--Swedish Proverb

Not everyone wants or is able to join a support group. Some people prefer to talk with just one person at a time. You may feel better talking to a close friend or family member, a social worker or counselor, or a member of your faith or spiritual community.

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