My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women

Feeling Guilty About Feeling Happy: A Holiday Tale About Survivor’s Guilt


As we get to the highlights of the holiday season, I often reflect on how far I’ve come.  At this time last year, chemotherapy was kicking my ass.  I had just gotten out of the hospital for some unknown virus, my white blood cell count had dropped to almost non-existent and I could barely move.  Parties were continuing without me.  The holiday lights were shining, even though I couldn’t enjoy them.  Dinners were being eaten and wine was being poured, but not into my glass.  When you are going through cancer, sometimes you get a glimpse of how life will go on without you.  It’s unsettling.  Disturbing.  Macabre.  But that was my holiday season in 2014.

This year is so much different.  Treatment is done and while I can still feel it’s effects, it doesn’t change my day to day activities.  I can pretty much go about life normally (pretty much).  I’ll be going to friend’s houses for Christmas Eve for feast of the 7 fishes and then to my oldest friend’s mother’s house for Christmas Day.  Ken will be working so it will be me and Oliver but I will be surrounded by friends and fabulous food.  I will be celebrating rather than writhing in indescribable fatigue.  I will be laughing rather than begging for the pain to end.  I will get to go out with my son and see the Christmas lights, the Rockefeller Center christmas tree, the famously glamorous windows at Saks 5th Avenue and the festively unique and quirky stalls at the Union Square holiday market, my favorite Christmas activity.  There is so much joy in my life right now and that is not fair.

This month seems to be plagued with bad news from those who are enduring metastatic breast cancer.  Several women have died recently and even though I didn’t know them, it is a constant reminder that things can change at any time, without warning or reason.  It is a neon sign that flashes in my face, telling me that nothing is permanent and no one is safe, especially me.  Young women have been forced by cancer to leave their small children.  This is my biggest fear and it’s happening all the time.

But I’m here celebrating.  It’s not fair.

Other’s are receiving bad news.  The cancer is back.  The chemo isn’t working.  The cancer has spread.  More treatment is needed.  And on and on.

I am going to parties while others spend their days on the infusion floor.  It is not fair.

And then there are those who I loved who have recently left us.  My friend and partner in cancer crime, Jessica, left us less than two months ago.  I think about her every day and although I never met her family, I keep them in my heart.  I can’t imagine what this holiday season must be like for them.  I don’t want to imagine.

I am here, enjoying the city that Jessica loved.  I am seeing Broadway shows, eating the food, taking in the spectacular views…all of the things she would want to do.  All of the things she was hoping to do again.  But she is not here.  All I can do is try to enjoy this city in her honor.  But that is not enough.  She should be here with me.  It’s not fair that I get to go on and she doesn’t.  What makes me so special?

What makes me worthy enough to have this time when so many others do not?

I do not have the answers to these questions.  All I know is that I’ve been loving life and loving my city, my family and my friends this holiday season.  And while I wouldn’t want to change a thing about it, I want to change everything.  I want to change everything.




6 thoughts on “Feeling Guilty About Feeling Happy: A Holiday Tale About Survivor’s Guilt

  1. Carrie, it is wonderful that you are enjoying the holidays. After everything you’ve been though, you deserve a break.

    Survivorship guilt is always there in some shape or form. I understand why you would feel guilty during the holidays, especially after all the sad news we’ve been exposed to. When I feel guilty I try to remind myself that most things in life are out of our control. But it’s also human to feel empathetic about other people’s situations. It’s a beautiful quality.

    It’s nice that you’re honoring your friend Jessica. I know how much her situation affected you. I also know that if you had a chance to change everything, you would. I would too. xx

  2. Whenever a friend with cancer dies, I always think: Why them? and not me? I suppose we all do. But we are still here and our job is to affirm life by living it. Happy holidays, Carrie. Celebrate life. Love your family. Be well.

  3. I think many of us have similar thoughts at least from time to time. Life is so random. I have no answers either, but I do know you should keep on enjoying the life you are living. It’s the best way to honor those we have lost to this darn disease. So as Eileen said, go ahead and celebrate. Love your family. And be well. xx

    • Sorry I’m so late replying to this. I’ve been trying to enjoy life after (?) cancer. With more left to go, it’s been hard to move on. And with the death of a friend…well…I don’t need to explain that. Some days are better than others.

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