Guilt and worry about the effects of my ill-health on my mum and friends

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Hello everyone,

I've had a good scroll to see if I could find something similar to what i'm about to post but I couldn't so far.

I've been diagnosed in June 2020 with Primary Mediastinal Large B-Cell Lymphoma, aged 28.  My brother died of a different lymphoma (Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma) two years ago, after a 3 year battle - aged 28.  My dad died of pancreatic cancer 11 years ago, aged 69. 

My mum cared for both my dad and my brother exceptionally.  She was absolutely devoted to both, and fought for the best treatment possible for them, ensuring their dignity and that their voices were heard, right until the end.

I feel a crippling guilt when I look at my mum.  She has been through so much, so so much, and now i've got cancer too.  I'm living at home with her and she is being an angel, as usual, looking after me so amazingly and carrying on managing a big house etc.  I can see the worry on her face, I know she's having lots of sleepness nights, and I just don't know how to make anything any better.  I know it's not my fault that i've got cancer, but I just hate to see her suffering.  I hate to see the impact on my friends too, and how i'm unable to hang out with them like before.

Is anyone else struggling with seeing the impact of their cancer on their families/ friends, or has any advice/ thoughts?

Thank you so much,


  • I just finished successful treatment for lymphoma only to be diagnosed with primary lung cancer and feel extremely guilty about putting my children through more worry.

    I think such feelings are extremely normal.  It's also possible that your mum finds comfort in doing things for you.  It may help her to feel that she has a measure of control.

  • Hi Emily,

    I stumbled on your post via a search for 'Hepatosplenic'. I was diagnosed with the same in March this year. My wife has been looking after me since then (to varying degrees). We have three small children, which means I am an added burden to my wife. For reference, I'm on my fourth chemo regime, each with varying levels of toxicity/side-effect. My wife and I have discussed my current and future care, and poor prognosis, in detail.

    Basically, if the tables were turned, what would you want? I would want to be there for my wife. The way my wife and I figure it, we get this time together, we value it more, and we have a stronger and more intimate relationship because of it. This, somewhat ironically, has enriched both our lives.

    You and your mum can't pretend that your condition doesn't add stress, of course it does. It adds even more stress to know that it's adding stress for your mum. As Lolie said, that's normal. But, maybe you and your mum can find a small reward in being even closer. The way I look at it is: the only thing of real value I can 'offer' my wife, and family and friends, is intimacy. I can give them more of myself, and a deeper, more meaningful, relationship (both ways). Hopefully, this will rub-off on them, and they will in-turn be comfortable building deeper relationships with other people.

    Given your family history with your brother and father (for which I'm sorry to hear), this might all be quite obvious to you (in which case I'm sorry) but it was eye-opening to my wife and I. We have also noticed that the people who have been bravest to build deep relationships with us, and address my disease head-on, have been the people who have lost loved ones to cancer. This disease takes away a lot (feels like everything), but it might be possible to take something back.

    I hope this is useful, and doesn't seem too full of platitudes and cheap psychiatry.