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What is a Survivor?

What is a Survivor?

I have several t-shirts from my years of doing the Big Climb in Seattle. (That’s an annual event where over 6,000 people climb the stairs of the tallest building in Washington State to raise millions for leukemia research.) Emblazoned across the back of every shirt, stretching from shoulder to shoulder, is the word “Survivor.”

One day a woman noticed my shirt and asked me what it meant. I told her it had a double meaning. I survived the arduous climb up the Columbia Center building and I also survived cancer.

But was that right? Was I really a cancer survivor? I hadn’t beaten the disease. My leukemia wasn’t even in remission. Did I have the right to wear such a shirt?

When do I become a survivor?

Leuk is still with me. Though I’m doing quite well for now I know he’s percolating along inside and may someday boil over. So am I really a survivor?

And what of those who know they aren’t going to beat it – those whose life is nearing its end? Can they wear the shirt?

I guess it really comes down to what we think it means to survive. The Oxford dictionary defines a survivor as “a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.” But that isn’t its only definition. The same dictionary also describes a survivor as “a person who copes well with difficulties in their life.”

I believe the latter definition describes all of us. No matter what stage we are at, as long as we’re alive and fighting our disease, we are survivors.

Our legacy will survive forever

Think of it this way: imagine you are in a lifeboat, stranded in the open sea. Though you don’t know whether you will make it to land or if you will perish, each day you wake up breathing means you have survived another night. You are a survivor because you haven’t given up.

It’s no different in our fight with leukemia. Each day is a triumph. We have survived.

Come to think of it, I’d even take the definition further. If the day comes that we lose the fight and pass on, we will still survive in the hearts of our loved ones.

In a sense, we’re never going to lose. We are survivors now because we are living. And when we’re gone we will still survive through our legacy. There really is no such thing as a leukemia victim.

So, as for me, I’ll wear that shirt. I’m a survivor and proud of it.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Carole McCue
    9 months ago

    Jim,
    Beautifully stated. I too am a survivor as my lymphoma is in remission.
    I share your sentiments and wish you continued health.
    Carole

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    8 months ago

    @cmccue I’m so glad you’re in remission. It’s people like you who inspire others to stay hopeful no matter where they are with their cancer. We all wish you the best.

  • Carole McCue
    8 months ago

    Thank you Jim. It is such a pleasure to be part of this community. I am strengthened by our members.

  • girard69
    9 months ago

    I personally think anyone that has cancer is a survivor! Everyday is a fight. I had a stem cell transplant in June 2017. I thank God every night for helping to give me another day to be with my husband and family.
    You are a SURVIVOR and never let anyone tell you differently. Keep on fighting and wear that shirt proudly.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    9 months ago

    @girard69 You are so right! Survivors rock!!

  • girard69
    9 months ago

    Haha I just noticed I typed 2017 for my stem cell transplant I meant 2018 forget it’s 2019!

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    9 months ago

    Sounds like you have a strong attitude of gratefulness. That will see you through a lot. I appreciate the time I have with my family too. Godspeed.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    9 months ago

    Your post was really interesting. I have not considered myself a survivor because I am living with cancer. Up to now, I considered a survivor being one that has beat cancer and is cancer free. Really, each day we live to fight the good fight, we are survivors. Truthfully, who cares about the title? We are here today and isn’t that the most important thing? Good luck to you.

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    9 months ago

    Keep fighting that good fight, Ann. And you’re right, being here, alive today is the most important thing. After all everyone, healthy or not, is only given one day at a time. No one is guaranteed more than that. Thanks for reading the post.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    9 months ago

    You’re welcome and you’re right. We are only given one day at a time. We now get the opportunity to appreciate each day!

  • hammosa
    9 months ago

    Couldn’t agree with you more!👍

  • hammosa
    9 months ago

    A survivor is anyone who has ever been diagnosed with an ugly disease and chooses to push through life one day at a time. I wear my Light of the night blood cancer survivor T shirt and I have been told I will not survive. I do , everyday I choose to wake up!👍

  • Ann Harper moderator
    9 months ago

    I love the fight you have in you. That is what will get you through day to day. Good luck to you. I hope all goes well. Please keep us informed.

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hammosa, you are an inspiration. You choose every day to live. I hope we can all follow your example.

  • bluchs
    9 months ago

    Jim, Thank You!
    Well said, and YES You Deserve to wear the shirt, and wear it proudly.
    We are in fact all survivors no mater what stage, we are in.
    Remission, terminal , at any of the various stages.
    We will survive in the hearts of other, forever.
    I do consider myself a survivor, even though, I went from , stage 4, to remission,and now terminal?
    If we are here, and still able to talk about this, We are survivors.
    If we are, or have been loved, we are survivors.
    We have made a difference, here and in the lives of those, we have loved.
    So we are forever survivors.
    Thank You for reminding us.
    When, I was told I was in remission, I put a plate on the front of my care, ” cancer survivor” but when I was re diagnosed as terminal, I changed it to ” support CLL, cancer sucks”
    You just reminded me, that I should have left it as a cancer survivor?
    You have just proven, how one person can change the world.
    This article, has just changed, how I look at myself?
    I am a survivor!

  • Ann Harper moderator
    9 months ago

    Keep thinking of yourself as a survivor and keep fighting. I read a post from you before and you’re doing some wonderful things, so just keep trying.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    9 months ago

    You’re welcome and you’re right. We are only given one day at a time. We now get the opportunity to appreciate each day!

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    9 months ago

    I don’t know what to say, Bluchs. Your comment touched my heart. I’m glad my post helped. Thanks for being a regular reader. Godspeed.

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