Usually, when a person is diagnosed with cancer and then doesn’t succumb to it, they most likely become known as a “survivor.” This term is applied to men and women, young and old, with all types of cancer and all stages, too. It’s been applied to friends, strangers, celebrities and to myself. I’m not sure it fits. I’m not sure it suits me.
I’ve had stage 3 ovarian cancer since 2009, so right now, today, I have survived it. But am I a “survivor”?
First and foremost, what is a survivor? Throughout all these years, I haven’t been certain, so I did a bit of English Dictionary research on the term to try to sort this out and perhaps discover why it’s used so often to describe someone who has been able to live through one or more cancer bouts.
In the most usual definition, a “survivor” is, “a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.”
This makes sense to me when it’s used to describe events like the passengers on the RMS Titanic who were found in the North Atlantic and brought back to dry land to live out their lives. They were survivors.
Although it’s a bit complicated, I haven’t felt like using that term to describe myself. It just doesn’t seem to be my right fit.
So, knowing that definition, I feel pretty well apart from it.
Although many have experienced cancer, we are all different, as are our cancers. For instance, there are several types of ovarian cancer. We have different immune systems, health conditions apart from cancer, ages, outlooks and treatment options. And so much impacts cancer recovery and the recurrence. I guess I could say I don’t feel confident enough to feel that I’m “back on dry land.”
So, according to the strict definition of the word “survivor,” I feel as though there are just too many differences for us to be grouped together with that one word. Others may disagree, because in the broadest sense, survivor is useful if we’re comparing those who have carried on after such a severe illness.
Maybe a better definition of “survivor,” for some, is option no. 2: a person “who copes well with difficulties in their life.” That one sounds more like me. Coping with life, yes, I’ve done pretty well with that category.
And I have one more thought on this survivorship subject. My mother lived to be 99 years old. If I can live to be her age, and not die from cancer, I’ll really feel like a survivor.