There are actually a few things that I could rant about as a cancer survivor. There are the usual, Why did this happen to me? kind of thing. There is definitely the much deserved rant about what things people say to someone with cancer. (I talked a little bit about that here).
First of all though, to get the actual rant started, I hate the words survivor and battle when talking about cancer. The unfortunate truth of the word survivor, is that it implies such a harrowing feat for those of us here and the narrow alternative for those of us who are no longer. I also hate the phrase, so-and-so lost their battle. Really?! Because I’m sure that that person’s friends and family still see the battle as an every day occurrence…not something lost. Definitely not something that is done, finito, fini. The same connotation is used with survivorship. That is the root of this rant…the idea that being a survivor also means that the battle is over.
Cancer builds a context into a “survivor’s” life (and into the life of a caregiver for that matter). Cancer taints future events in ways that result in both negative and positive outcomes. We have all heard of people living life to the fullest after experiencing life changing events like cancer. Some of the things we hear a lot less of though are the negative aspects. I do not mean this to be a moment where I now tell you each thing that I have experienced as a negative to being a cancer survivor….I only want to outline the key of survivorship that I have found to be so often overlooked by the bystanders. Survivorship is the process of surviving.
The context that cancer creates cannot be erased, forgotten, pushed through, sucked up, or ignored. Though others in the cancer survivor’s life may completely forget about the day of diagnosis, the months of chemo, and the feelings of isolation, anxiety, and hurt, the cancer survivor is not afforded this luxury. Others may choose to forget the new context of the cancer survivor’s life but the survivor does not have that choice. The survivor must now go through the process of surviving…
where things once easy may now seem difficult,
where once there was a clear and photographic memory now there may be a foggy and sluggish feeling for years,
where some people refuse to admit that you may not be back to 100% yet,
where people ignore what happened as if it is now over.
This is survivorship….not just being clear of cancer. To the survivors (both patients and caregivers) out there….cancer did happen. It is real and it makes sense to me that you are still feeling the effects of the battle. It makes sense to me that you may not be back to 100% and that your brain may still feel a bit slower than before. Cancer changes everything…so how can one expect to be the same as before? More importantly, why should one be made to feel as if they need to be the same as before?
Image via http://www.ttuhsc.edu