Words are interesting.
How do you handle being a "cancer fighter"
I use the term cancer fighter rather than cancer survivor. I refer to myself as a cancer survivor but I know some people don't like that term. Obviously we have no issues discussing our cancer on this site but do you have issues discussing your cancer outside of what next? I have some friends that would just like to stay clear of any reminder that they have or had cancer. Personally, I think it's important to share your experiences with others. We may have different types of cancer but in the end, we're all Cancer Fighters.
I agree that it's important to share your experiences with others and I don't mind talking about it to others. But I don't see myself as either a cancer survivor or a cancer fighter. If I had to pick one I'd probably go with cancer fighter because it feels like something that will always be hanging over my head, waiting until it can creep back again for another a$$ kicking:)
I think it's great to come up with new ways to describe yourself. The terms that are preferred by 'polite society' are often available to us because it makes people without disease feel better. I don't like being locked into any descriptive term because what I am and how I am doing can vary. Most days I'm fine and I feel like I am totally kicking cancer's a@@! Lung Cancer Warrior! That's Me!
Then there are times, like now, when I know someone who just died of cancer and I have a harder time feeling strong and on top of things and I feel a bit more deflated. I won't ever say I feel like a Cancer Victim, but a Cancer Wuss, maybe.
The thing is that, like it or not, we are now citizens of Cancer World and as much as we'd like to make a hasty exit, some of us anyway, are here to stay. So however we need to refer to ourselves in our varying degrees of struggle and empowerment, whatever makes us feel comfort, I say we go for it and don't let ourselves be pinned down by anyone else's label or definition.
I'll go with Survivor, thats what I am, and proud to be that, but I am a fighter. How do I handle it. I volunteer with the American Cancer Society. I Relay. Relay For Life, go to an event in your area and you will see hundreds of people just like us, and proud to be a fighter, survivor or any of the terms freebird used. I stand up and preach it every opportunity I get that we need everyone's voice, to raise funds for research, raise awareness, and to raise up each other in the fight.
I spoke this last Sat. night in Nashville before 1200 people at the Midsouth Relay For Life Leadership Summit. One of the most rewarding things I have ever done, to see that many people that are joined together to try to find a cure for a disease that has tried to get me 3 times, and they don't even know me.
We all need to remember, cancer was here before us, it's here now, we need to try to see that it is not here, when we are not here, or before.
I come here to WhatNext a lot for support, and I really enjoy reading everyone's stories. It is very difficult to talk about cancer with most non-cancer stricken friends.. they aren't interested in any news that isn't good. They're young-- they aren't interested in thinking about sickness.
I can't be 100% honest with my family and closer friends, because while they are interested, it makes them feel sad if your news isn't good. It's a conundrum.. but that's why this site is so good. It's a good place to get some stuff out that you can't otherwise. I've learned a lot here!
One thing funny I learned is the "cancer survivor" debate.. I honestly don't know where I stand on it.. some days I feel like a "cancer fighter" and other days a "cancer sufferer." Today I am going with "chemotherapy connoisseur" thanks to FreeBird... that's a good one!
Personally, since I have never stopped chemo, I refer to myself as a fighter. If you have "survived" your treatments, you have every right to call yourself what you want. I know that you don't want to hurt or offend anyone, but you have been through this journey, not anyone else. I can certainly understand how people feel when they avoid reminders of the cancer, but that is their choice to make. I agree that it is important to share. You never know who may benefit from your pearls of wisdom, or be urged to consult their doc/do self examination and detect disease early. Wouldn't it be great if an offhand comment of yours allowed someone else to catch their cancer early and avoid all that you went through?
You have to keep fighting Modern. You can't give up. You should read about Don Cohan. He's an olympic gold medalist in yachting. He was diagnosed with Stage IVB Hodgkins Disease back in 1991. He's still living today. In 2002 he was 72 years old and won the US Soloing Championship. He'll be 83 this February. His cancer is currently in remission as are quite a few others battling the same thing you are. Keep your head up.
I describe myself as a cancer warrior. My cancer will be with me for the rest of my life. There is no cure at this time. We (the doc's and I) just keep beating at it to keep it in check. I actually prefer WARRIOR to Survivor because while I truly am surviving with cancer. The survivor term has the connotation that all is perfectly all right. All will never be all right until we can eradicate this disease from the planet, but I am proud as heck that I can do battle as well as I am so far. So my term is Warrior and I'll use every weapon I can. My number 1 contribution to the battle is keeping myself healthy by eating well and exercising vigorously regularly. I leave the other stuff (chemo and the like) to the doctors.
I call myself a survivor also. I feel I was a fighter. I think I would continue to fight it hard if it were to attack me again. I'm about to be 70 (next May).. But at 62 I fought hard for my life also. I feel I'm on a mission to let people know it's not just the young who can win this battle. I told my oncologist that I was a tough old broad and wanted to fight it. After he stopped laughing we started fighting. I had God holding my one hand leading me to where He wanted me to be and my oncologist with the other hand guiding me to the right treatments. That was 7 years ago... I still find I can encourage someone at least once a week. I'm not bragging... I'm just telling how the battle4 has gone for me.. I'm still fighting cancer.. mostly now it's in other people... I started talking to a complete stranger at a wedding not long ago... my kids were trying to get me to dance but with my neuropathy... I was questioning my 'sure footedness'. She asked about it and I told her... Now was I sitting next to here by accident, coincidence, or God's will. Seems her sister had been diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer just a few weeks prior... God does have reasons for His coincidences.
I too am a cancer fighter. I'm a stage 4c advanced thyroid cancer patient. It's not curable, but not imminently fatal either. It seems everyone is different about discussing cancer. I've got some friends who want to hear all about how I am doing and my treatments, but others that want to support me, but not talk about the cancer. I try to respect whatever they can handle. I do, however, not hesitate to hit them up for donations each year when Relay comes around!
I'm not sure the terminology is what is important. I like FreeBird's list. I also like "survivor" and "fighter." We can each select a different term. What is important is that we understand what the words mean. I don't think that "survivor" means a final victory won. We have survived. We live to fight again. We may ultimately win through to a "cure," but no one gets out of life alive. The only difference is that we may know now what is the name of the disease that may kill us in the end.
Pick whatever term means the most to you. If someone prefers a different term, they aren't wrong, nor are you. Tell family and friends as much, or as little, as you are comfortable with (I do NOT suggest lying and falsely claiming all is well when it isn't). I find that "survivor" often works with those outside of the cancer community. They don't understand the nuances. It's up to you whether you tell them that, though the beast has been dealt a defeat, it may come back.
I guess I never really thought about the label. I think fighter sounds good since I describe my 2 biopsies as my battle scars. I agree with one of the others that survivor sounds like it's all over and everything turned out fine. According to my doc, there is no cure...only remission. So since BCC just showed up last month, it seems ongoing....a battle. But I have 2 beautiful grandchildren that I want to see grow up....so I won't quit fighting.
Friends don't know how to respond so they either ignore the issue or hover. Neither works. They don't understand. We have a HopeClub in our area that is our lifeline. It used to be Gilda' club, but is now associated w/ the Cancer Society. We share experiences, tears & laughter , all having different cancers. If you have a Gilda's Club, find it. It's not just for women or breast cancer or ovarian cancer. If you don't have a Gilda's, approach your Cancer Society & encourage them to consider starting a HopeClub. We have the only one, but I hope others will pop up around the country.
If I have to describe myself in terms of cancer, I guess I would use survivor although I am also currently in fight mode. I don't want to be defined by cancer in any way. When I found out about my recurrence, I was surprised that I only felt the need to share this information with the people in what I call "my inner circle." My mom, my son, my cousin (who is like a sister) and her son and my very closest friends. My mom wanted to tell other family members and I told her to hold off until we kew exactly what I was dealing with. Even after that I told her I decided I would tell people only if they asked. The people who are in my life every day would already know. I told my mom I didn't want to be "the cancer girl." I have a recurrence, I am in remission, I have a recurrence, yadda yadda yadda. As time has gone on I can tell when people know because they look deep in my eyes when they ask how I am or they hug me a little tighter or they tell me they love me more often.
I rarely bring up the subject except at my cancer support group (I just go on the hikes) or on the ovarian cancer message board. I gave a little talk today at Weight Watchers because it is Ovarian Cancer Month and I want women to be aware of the basic symptoms. I gave the talk at my chair yoga class too. But for the most part I don't bring it up at all. It's not what I want my life to be about especially when I am feeling so good.
It's a different world today than it used to be. When my Mom was diagnosed wityh breast cancer it was so "hush hush." Peropler shyed away from talking about it and dealing with it. Today is so different! I talk openly and asnwer any questions that are asked. To negate that I have cancer-- it just doesn't make sense. My wig, energy level, so many things have changed! I do believe that cancer has changed me, and need for those around me to undersyand the chasnges. I am teaching fourth grade. My fellow teachers are always asking if I need help (they know that I have finished chemo, and am in the middle of radiation). We sure are cancer fighters, and it is important to actuively keep fighting!
Love the "Cancer Fighter" Term. Recently diagnosed and had surgery last week. I am a fighter! I have had many areas of my life where I needed to fight myself just to believe in myself. I do not believe in giving up! But I do find it is hard for some to talk about how it has affected their life personally.
I have to respect that, but for me who's the kind of person who will talk about anything always find myself seeking others who are not afraid to talk about being a "CANCER FIGHTER" or just living in general. Thanks for this post! I am a Cancer Fighter!
I have learned not to wear the cape in public, It gets caught in doors. You are a cancer fighter. I'm a cancer survivor, some 30 odd years now. When I was fighting it, I was full bore fighting it. I took up running and with every footfall I would chant to myself, "I want to live." I began paying attention to my diet. I also did one thing that wasn't particularly wise, I bought a motorcycle. I rode it for eight years. I thought that since I'm facing my mortality, I better make sure that I live life to the fullest. I wasn't lucky enough to have a wife or daughter. I wish I still had that bike. It was dangerous (tore my liver in 3 places, a car pulled out in front of me) but it was also exhilarating. There was a whole lot more exhilaration than pain. Take to heart that you're going to live. Look at your wife and daughter and know that you will live for them, you'll fight for them. I too had friends that didn't make it. That's them. Say, "But I'm going to live!" Louder. I couldn't hear you!!
OK. That was a good one. Go kiss your family.