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A sword and shield collecting cobwebs with a laptop open on a desk

I’m Not a Survivor

Since writing for this site, I think I have become a bit more reflective on me, myself and I.  Today, when making my breakfast, for some unknown reason the following popped into my head:  I’m not a survivor.  I don’t resonate with being a survivor.  Because my diagnosis was never going to kill me.

This might be why I’m so anti all the ‘accepted’ language around cancer, which I know I’ve written about before and how much I hate it.  It might all be because of never having to worry about dying from my diagnosis.  It wasn’t a ‘bad’ one.  It’s highly treatable.  So I’ve never ‘fought’ it.  And when people associate me with being a survivor I have a knee jerk reaction in my head of NOOOOOOOOOOO THAT’S NOT ME!!!!!  And I think that’s why. I haven’t had to survive.  I’ve just kept on living. Kept on moving forward.

Cancer doesn’t define me

I also think that I’ve been so determined, and don’t get me wrong, I by no means think that others aren’t, and this isn’t to take away from what others are going through.  My writing is entirely selfish.  It’s about me and how I feel and what I go through.  I would never try to write any other way.  To attempt to put into my words how others feel is not my place or my role.  That’s for them if they want to. 

So, being determined means that I won’t let my cancer, being chronic, and it being a part of my life for a third of it define me and my life.  To be all of it.  If I was a “survivor,” that to me means that I spend all my time focusing on it and my treatment and my health.  And I don’t.  I don’t worry about my bloods or my leukaemic rate or what’s happening at a biochemical level. I just hope and assume it’s all ok.  That the chemo is working.  That I don’t get horrific fatigue.  That I can carry on.  So I don’t survive.  I live, which to me is very different.  Always glass half full, never glass half empty.

Looking ahead to treatment decisions

That might all change, of course, if I have a transplant.  I’m 5 days into the new drug, and so far, it seems to be ok!  I haven’t had a massive energy crash.  Yes, I’m tired today but I have been really busy this week and as I haven’t been as exhausted as normal, I have definitely been going to sleep too late.  But I’ve made it through the week ok!   Tired is different to fatigue.  Tired is manageable.  I still feel like me, so I’m really hoping that this might continue and it’s not going to get progressively worse, and maybe just MAYBE I’ve found a drug that suits me.  I know that if this is the case, my consultant will probably be absolutely ecstatic!

Time will tell.  But I’m hopeful.  Well, I’m very rarely not.  It’s only when it’s really bad that I lose my hope.

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


  • Carolyn B
    9 months ago

    I am more on the same page as you are with respect to the language around cancer, the cancer marketing machine…

    Cancer is WHAT I HAVE. It is NOT WHO I AM. I have had breast cancer 2003, Breast cancer the other side 2010, Follicular non-Hodkgin’s lymphoma likely had since 1997, could have been diagnosed in 2010 except the facility blew off the enlarged nodes, B symptoms, low red count… was actually diagnosed in 2010 after years of having a dx of hypochondria, stress, benign (no biopsy) enlarged lymph nodes, early perimenopause…

    Since ER pos breast cancer can recur 20 years out I’d like to think I am cured, but in reality may not be. The fnhl is an incurable, indolent cancer.

    Cancer is a pain in the a$$, impacts my day to day life with energy, etc. but it is NOT who I am. Who I am is what I do. Sure having had and still having cancer that affects what I do on occasion, but it is still not who I am.

    I hate the war words like battle. That can imply you didn’t try hard enough, or is otherwise somehow your fault if you relapse. Survivor is another word I hate. I had cancer and I still have it. Other serious diseases we don’t identify them as survivors when we talk about their medical history. They had a stroke, they had a heart attack, they have diabetes or high blood pressure. Why is cancer different?

    I hate the marketing machine that goes along with cancer, especially breast cancer. I like pink, but not with ribbons on it. I do NOT want to wear on my sleeve that I have had breast cancer. I should not be branded for life because I had it (and who knows still may have it, although not all that likely since so much time has passed). The marketing machine should not try to make me feel guilty because I refuse the identity they are trying to fob off on us/me. I appreciate the nfl marketing machine as it does none of those things.

    I HAD cancer and with two of them and I still HAVE cancer with one of them. BUT things out of my control determine whether or not I will respond to chemo. I did not survive this. I lived through this and the luck of the draw determined whether or not I lived through it so far and will continue to live though it. There is a difference. Cancer is not who I am. It is what I have had and still have. And I “have” so many other things. I have a PhD, I have a kid, I have talents in a number of areas, I have students because I teach.

    Who I am is what I do with what I have and what I did. And the cancer vocabulary, labels, etc. are so very narrow. I live outside of those.

  • Carolyn B
    9 months ago

    woops typo here – could have been diagnosed in 2002, not 2010 with the fnhl.

  • Carolyn B
    9 months ago

    can’t type, meant 2003. Wish there was a short window for an edit like so many other forums. I don’t know if a moderator can go back in and fix that for me and then delete these two comments or not.

    Sentence involved is “Follicular non-Hodkgin’s lymphoma likely had since 1997, could have been diagnosed in 2010 except the facility” and should read 2003 not 2010

  • Crystal Harper moderator
    9 months ago

    Everyone has such a different experience with cancer and it’s so interesting to me to hear other people’s views on it. I’ve noticed that some people get offended or bothered by certain words related to cancer while others are proud. I like your outlook on it though and I agree with what you said. I hope your new drug continues to go well for you!!

  • Ann Harper moderator
    9 months ago

    Good for you! I like how your looking at the glass as half full. Living your life and not stressing about cancer is definitely a healthy way to deal with it. Good luck to you. I hope your new medicine works well.

  • bluchs
    9 months ago

    I Pray that your diagnosis and cancer never end up as it has with me and so many others here?
    It pleases me to know you have such a positive attitude about this cancer, we all share?
    I on the other hand.
    I am a Survivor !
    I read another article here a while back, and I found it to be true.
    I thought, that because I am Terminal, that I was not a survivor.
    But the article taught me that I Am A Survivor.
    And Yes Katie, time will tell?
    I too have at times lost hope, in fact right now it is hard to look ahead.
    So for me right now hope is hard.
    But I try to keep faith and I try to keep hope!
    For as for Me.
    I am a Survivor!
    May God Bless You and keep you with us.

  • Ann Harper moderator
    9 months ago

    I’m sorry to hear about your prognosis. I have read that your beliefs are a powerful thing. Knowing your a survivor and trying to enjoy each day will help you to live the best life you can. I will say a prayer for you.

  • bluchs
    9 months ago

    God Bless You Ann.
    Thank You for your Prayers

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