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When the surgeon first confirmed I had cancer, he told me that it wouldn’t shorten my life; actually, he tried to reassure me with that comment on two or three other occasions. I was surprised that he said that, but in spite of all the advances in breast cancer treatment, I guess the first thing a woman might think is, “Am I going to die”? My reaction was, “This is so darned inconvenient.” Maybe that was a thought of denial on my part, but I still feel the same way.
It is inconvenient.
But I mainly wanted to address a phrase that is commonly used to discuss the condition of a person who comes through cancer: Cancer Survivor. Please know that if you know anyone who describes herself that way, I mean no disrespect. We can all choose to see and describe ourselves in multiple ways, but that’s not a term I would use.
I’ve thought about the use of Cancer Survivor quite a bit, and at first, I didn’t know why it bothered me. I didn’t hate the term, but I just couldn’t identify with it. I guess you could say I haven’t survived it yet, but from all indications, I will.
Some folks probably call themselves a survivor to let people know that you can survive cancer. I just think that conversation can be pursued without the label.
In these modern times where so much progress has been made in treatment, the word survivor seems pretty extreme. Clearly, early detection made a big difference in my prognosis. And I don’t know if I will have to go through radiation and chemo (those results will be reported in a couple of weeks), and I may feel that I really did survive something difficult if I have to go through those treatments. But the cancer itself will be dealt with. And I hope I won’t be one of those people who obsess about whether it will come back or that the second breast will be affected (and the odds are against both but you never know).
Everyone has difficult stuff happen in their lives, and I have been amazingly blessed with very good health. And I know that there are people who do feel as if life is something they survive.
But I’ve never felt that way.
I also don’t want people to get the impression that Cancer Survivor is a primary way that I define myself. Instead, I am a wife, a writer, a teacher, and a good friend (I hope!)
Instead, life is about thriving: Learning. Growing. Helping. Laughing. Celebrating.
I have so many things I love to do. There are things I do that I would like to think make a difference. I feel helpful. I feel useful. Here I am, sharing my thoughts the day after my surgery! Life can tough, but it is rarely a burden. I have too much love around to uplift and inspire me.
And I feel blessed.
*Hat tip to Caryn who helped me flesh out this idea.Published in