Cancer Does Not Define Me

A stage 3 bowel cancer survivor who recently found out she was in remission writes a poem about maintaining her identity despite cancer.

Cancer Does Not Define ME, Being Karen Defines ME.

Cancer does not define ME, being Karen defines ME.

It doesn’t change ME, or the way my family and friends see ME.

Having radiotherapy does not define ME, being brave defines ME.

With radioactive burns on my body, my family and friends still love ME.

The life changing surgery, and wearing a colostomy bag, does not define ME, being strong defines ME.

I am still beautiful, my scars do not define ME, and one day a man will love ME, for simply being ME.

Having chemotherapy does not define ME, being resilient and fighting the cancer defines ME.

Sickness, diarrhea, hot sweats, cold shivering spells, fatigue, chemo brain, being off my food, having a strange metal taste in my mouth and craving salty snacks

all make me weak, emotionally and physically drained, yet somehow I get through it.

Because I am Karen, and having cancer treatments does not define ME.

Being told of my stage 3 bowel cancer, that they can’t cut it all out of me, it’s spread into the lymph nodes and I have a benign brain tumor, too, does not define ME.

Being courageous, remaining calm during challenging times and the "carry-on regardless" attitude defines ME.

Accepting and living with what the oncologist and cancer nurses said to me - "We can’t cure you, but we're looking at stopping it spreading further," does not define ME.

Refusing to give up, not putting my life on hold, finishing my degree, graduating, doing my MA in media journalism, pursuing my media career and being determined defines ME.

Cancer does not define ME, being a cancer princess warrior defines ME.

Cancer hasn’t won, hasn’t destroyed ME, it doesn’t have the hold or power.

I won, I have got the power and in the face of adversity,

I am not the loser, but the real true winner.

I am Karen, I am brave, beautiful and strong, I am ME.

This poem was originally submitted for the CURE® 2021 Poetry Contest. Submissions are open until August 15 and poems can be submitted here.

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