A woman reaches out to a friend who is shrouded in darkness.

The Inner Turmoil of Being a Bladder Cancer Survivor

I’ve heard many people talk about “survivor's guilt,” but I never really experienced it - that was until just recently.

Supporting someone with the same cancer as you

Earlier this year, I found out that a very dear friend had been diagnosed with bladder cancer. We had been friends for over 30 years and had shared many adventures together. It seemed incredible that we both should end up sharing this same god awful disease.

Over the following few months, we spoke about many aspects of bladder cancer, from diagnosis to treatments, and everything in between. One thing that I did recommend to my friend was to get a second opinion.

Finding out that my friend's cancer is terminal

Finding out that my dear friend was given a terminal diagnosis was shocking to the core. It was also very personal. I suddenly felt that “sick to my stomach” feeling of both upset and guilt. Upset that someone who was loved by so many was going to have to leave us. Guilt that I never got that diagnosis, guilt that I had the option of having life-saving surgery. Guilt that my friend was indeed going to die and that I had been afforded the chance to survive. Guilt!!!

Maintaining the friendship

I visited my friend regularly, and we would chat about our families, have a giggle and ultimately, I would try and support my friend as best I could. I thought that my friend may hate me or be angry that they were given only a few months to live. And here I was, walking around and appearing to live as if nothing has ever happened. I really believed that the family would be angry at me. Because the truth was, I was feeling very angry myself. How is it that one person lives, yet another should have to die? I really did begin to question the worthiness of my own mortality.

Making sense of still being here

My friend said that I treated them normally and that I really “got" them. That it was refreshing to speak with someone who didn’t enter the house with an expression of sadness or pity. That I still, as they put it, “bounced in” and treated them exactly the same. I was beginning to realize that I was still worthy of being alive. That my friend wasn’t angry at me for surviving but in fact grateful that they had someone close who understood them. Someone who understood the medical terms that were being banded around. Who understood the true fear of cancer.

Someone that could accept their terminal diagnosis and not be phased by it. To ultimately be accepting of their condition and to be able to speak openly and honestly about their final wishes.

Being able to talk about death

One of the things that used to infuriate my friend was family and friends who were unwilling to accept that this was the end, that there was no “getting better” from this. So many want to say things to make the patient feel better. Whether it’s “try this treatment,” “go see this doctor”, or “try this diet.” Death is something that we, as human beings in the western world, seem to find extremely difficult to deal with. But sometimes we just have to accept that nothing more can be done and that the best thing we can do is to just be there.

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