Am I a survivor? Or is there a better word?

So I was having dinner the other night with 2 friends who are young cancer survivors like me and we were talking about the label “survivor”.  We don’t like it. We really have never felt comfortable calling ourselves that. And when does that actually take effect? After diagnosis? chemo? surgery? done with active treatment completely?

One cancer patient we knew said she would rather be called a veteran. It is a war we have been through or are going through. Plus “Survivor” implies that it is all behind us and we are through with cancer. Unfortunately, we are not done with it.  We really have no way of knowing if we are truly done with it. Only time will tell. If we are lucky and it never comes back we still have to live with the disfigurements, the scars, the side affects and the memories of what we have been through. And if it does come back – we are no longer a survivor, or maybe we never were. So what word do you call people that have metastasized cancer and are living with their cancer and fighting it? Survivors? Patients? (we hate that too- we are sick of being labeled sick) How about-Warriors! That is what we came up with for a friend of mine- who is no less a warrior than any soldier. She is definitely someone I would want with me in the trenches.  All of these war metaphors- you’d think I was a gun-totting marine!   I do have to say though, I watched a lot of Mash reruns on TV the year I was sick. I found it oddly comforting, I felt I was in the same boat as Hawkeye and Margaret. I was somewhere I didn’t want to be, doing something I didn’t want to do- and I had to make the most out of it. And that meant making jokes about a not so funny subject. And I happen to love sarcastic, witty humor- so it was my “in-house support group”. The people of Mash knew my pain, they “got me”. Thanks Hawkeye for the comfort. From one Veteran to another.

the cast of Tv's Mash

 

 

 

One Comment

  1. Karen
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Your note on being a survivor (http://cancervictory.com/2012/10/04/am-i-a-survivor-or-is-there-a-better-word/) really resonated with me. In fact, when I showed it to my wife, she thought I had written it and was talking about myself — though the “year I was sick” party sort of confused her.

    In my own case I’m a three-times prostate cancer “survivor” — that is, the cancer re-emerged twice after the initial surgery — though it hasn’t (yet?) metastasized. So surgery then radiation and now chemo (hormones). Who knows what’s next?

    I’m writing my own thoughts on survivorship and, if you’re interested, I’d like to get your opinion on my efforts. And I’m hoping you’ll give your permission for me to quote from your blog (with attribution, of course).

    Regards, Dick