Stories from Navigation: Dealing with Survivor’s Guilt

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The LIVESTRONG Foundation’s Cancer Navigation Services provides cancer survivors and their families support through a wide range of cancer-related assistance. From free counseling over the phone or in person, to providing specific information about financial grants and assistance available in the client’s area, the Navigation team helps people find the personalized information and support they need during or after a cancer diagnosis. In this blog series, we’ll be sharing how our Navigators helped people connect to the individualized resources and services they needed. *Names and parts of their stories have been changed or fictionalized in order to protect the individuals’ privacy, but the kinds of services they received are available to anyone who contacts us.

Group Hand HoldJim had just finished his treatments for prostate cancer and had finally been given the “all clear” by his doctor. He assumed his life would return to normal and he could continue to enjoy living the way he had before. However, in the months that followed, he soon realized his old hobbies and job didn’t bring him the same kind of satisfaction they used to. Even his wife noticed he was turning into a different person. Jim wanted to feel happy and grateful to be alive and have beaten cancer, but instead all he felt was despair. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t seem to shake the feelings of depression and guilt that had been nagging at him since the end of treatment.

Although he wanted to get help, Jim was hesitant about contacting LIVESTRONG’s Navigation Services. After all, he had been cancer-free for several months now, so he wasn’t sure if there was anything LIVESTRONG could really do for him. Still, Jim decided to give it a shot and contacted LIVESTRONG’s Navigation Services over the phone. Jim was connected to Guadalupe, one of the General Navigators at LIVESTRONG, who was able to listen to his concerns and answer his questions.

Guadalupe still remembers her first conversation with Jim. “He had been cleared for three months, but still felt really, really bad. He went into a deep depression. He wondered, ‘Why can’t I be the man I used to be anymore?’” explained Guadalupe.

“He was having a hard time handling the fact that he survived when others whom he had met during treatment had died. He kept saying, ‘I feel guilty because I’m the one who survived.’”

Guadalupe not only provided him with free counseling sessions over the phone, but also connected Jim with some local organizations for cancer survivors in his area. Through these organizations, Jim was able to meet up with other men who had survived his form of cancer and were dealing with similar thoughts and feelings. Jim was so relieved to have found other men he could talk to who could understand what he was thinking and feeling. He was able to overcome the feelings of loneliness and despair by sharing his story and asking for help.

LCNC FrontLIVESTRONG’s Navigation Services provide cancer survivors and their families with a wide range of emotional, physical and financial support specifically tailored to each individual. “The great thing is you can access these services at any time, and it doesn’t have to be all at once,” said Guadalupe. Survivors and their families can receive help at any time, whether they’ve just been diagnosed or have had a clean bill of health for years.

LIVESTRONG’s Navigation Services team is dedicated to our mission of improving the lives of people affected by cancer now. If you or a loved one has been affected by cancer, you can contact us by calling 1-855-220-7777, filling out our online intake form, or by visiting us in person at our Cancer Navigation Center at 2201 E. 6th St., Austin, TX 78702.