• Post-treatment: still a cancer patient or now a cancer survivor?

    Asked by leepenn on Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Post-treatment: still a cancer patient or now a cancer survivor?

    I keep a blog about my breast cancer experience, and a comment was recently made that I should change my description from cancer patient to cancer survivor.

    I think this is interesting to think about. My treatment ended in the middle of February with a double mastectomy after months of chemotherapy. I had a complete pathological response, which is the best possible result (happy happy joy joy!).

    Many people seem to refer to themselves as survivors from day one... Others seem to describe themselves as patients even years after the treatment plans have concluded. I will continue to have doc appointments for years - and these appointments are directly related to the cancer diagnosis.

    So, part of me feels like once a cancer patient, always a cancer patient (certainly, insurance companies seem to subscribe to this model)... But then another part of me feels like I have kicked cancer's a$$..... and so I have transitioned to SURVIVOR....

    What do you think?

    10 Answers from the Community

    10 answers
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      Excellent question Lee. One train of thought is that maybe it depends on who you are talking to or talking about. My experience has been that most people (those without cancer) think that those of us without hair, or who have lost weight from chemo, etc. are cancer patients, while those that run or walk in fundraisers are survivors. Not that there is any particular logic in that, but that has been my personal experience. As for myself, it seems logical to me that I am both at the same time. Any current or ongoing activity related to physical health and wellbeing makes me a patient whether that is chemo or check ups, or exercise, and nutrition. And that is the case whether the activity is related to cancer or to any other illness or injury. But everyday that I am not dead, I am also a survivor, and again, that's true whether I have survived another day with cancer or survived another day without being run over by a truck. It doesn't have to be a transition from one to the other or a label that defines us is some stereotypical way. None of us are one dimensional and we are more that one thing at a time. Those that need to put us in a single box with neat lines around it may need to broaden their own horizons.

      almost 9 years ago
    • HopefulJourney's Avatar

      So true, what you said
      alot try to still say cancer patient only
      then yet a warrior i feel cause its a battle!
      no matter!

      almost 9 years ago
    • GregP_WN's Avatar

      I have been through it 3 times, I will always consider myself as to somewhat "having" cancer, because I never know when I will wake up and feel another lump, but I consider myself a survivor after I was told I was done with treatment and I could go about my life. So I consider you a survivor. congratulations!!

      almost 9 years ago
    • CarolLHRN's Avatar
      CarolLHRN (Best Answer!)

      Honestly, I want to put my cancer experience behind me when it's all over and forget about it. I don't want to have a label that has cancer in it. I just want to be me, get on with my life, and grow as a person. I know I am not the same person I was prior to this journey but when the cancer is gone and the treatments are over, I want to close this chapter of my life and move forward.

      almost 9 years ago
    • PinkD's Avatar

      I happened to have bought a ticket to a big fundraising event for an awesome local organization (Pink Ribbon Connection) and between the time I bought the ticket and the day of the event, I was diagnosed. At one point they asked for all the survivors to stand, and everyone at my table was urging me to get up. I felt kind of foolish since my diagnosis had only been days earlier and I hadn't yet started treatment, but I have to admit, I think it did change my attitude for the better. I was a survivor before I even knew I had cancer (although I count my diagnosis day as my anniversary of survivorship)! That was somehow empowering--like everything the doctors had to offer was just another weapon in my arsenal. Not sure if that makes sense but that's how I was able to wrap my mind around the situation.

      almost 9 years ago
    • PhillieG's Avatar

      A friend of mine said "you haven't survived cancer until you die from something else".

      I really don't invest too much in the semantics of it. Right now I am Living with Cancer and I'm fine with it. Possibly that is how this will all play out. I will always be someone who either has or had cancer. It's helped define me so I'll never forget about it. If I get to a point where I haven't had treatments in a few years that will be great but if in a few years I'm still living with cancer, that's fine too...
      It's great you kicked cancer's BUTT!
      So my answer is that I have no answer I guess ;-)

      almost 9 years ago
    • akristine's Avatar

      When I address the folks at the Relay for Life, my speech will begin "Anyone who has heard the words 'you have cancer' is a survivor." I finished radiation on February 29 and I am no longer a patient. Just my three cents (inflation, you know).

      almost 9 years ago
    • cdirden's Avatar

      whether I'm a patient or survivor what I try to keep in mind is that I am not a victim of cancer. I've got to fight hard while I'm going through it and help others when I get through it.

      almost 9 years ago
    • WVgirl2424's Avatar

      I believe referring to ones self as a cancer survivor or a cancer patient is up to each individual. How you feel you are. I was diagnosed with leukemia on 3/2011. I am a registered nurse but unless you specialize in oncology you (a nurse), are just like everyone else, asking the same questions and at age 44 with a full life I consider myself a survivor. I had a stem cell transplant, however leukemia is in your blood and goes thru your entire body, it's not like a tumor that's been removed and treated with radiation and chemo. I have been cancer free since 4/15/2012. Transplant was on 7/4/2012. I recently walked on my treadmill thinking I was good to build some muscle as I lost 60 pounds with chemo. I ended up injuring my knee which I see an orthopedic surgeon this week. My oncologist told me to face facts, I have at least another 18 months before I am physically able to work, and then not in patient care, I will have to do consulting or get another degree. Saying that made me question again, patient or survivor, cancer hit every organ I have and each one has to heal for me to work, however my brother's stem cell donation has taken but never considered a cure. My mother had breast cancer, after 5 years cancer free she was considered cancer free and a survivor( she passed shortly after that from stroke). So, I believe I will consider myself a survivor, as I am cancer free. I will return to work, a home based work, I'm not taking chances! Prayers to all.

      almost 9 years ago
    • leepenn's Avatar

      These are all great answers - thank you so much!
      I think I am just Lee Penn....
      Not cancer survivor... Not cancer patient...
      Just Lee Penn, who has lived the cancer treatment experience and hopes to never have to do so again. But also, Lee Penn is a mom, a professor, a cyclist (hopefully at racing level again), an advocate for alternative transportation, and .... so on.
      THANK YOU!

      almost 9 years ago

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