Cancer Survivor: Redefining a Title

Changing the perception of what it means to be a survivor

My sister and I attended the annual Colorado Blood Cancer Institute’s National Cancer Survivor’s Day for the first time at the beginning of June. It was a great event for the both of us, and a chance for her to celebrate how far she has come and for me, it is always nice to network with those who have a shared vision of a cure.

When these or other events on cancer come up, the word “survivor” is used so often. Most often, if not always, it is in reference to those who are either in remission or in reference to those who are now cured of cancer. While my sister is lucky enough to be in remission, I have known many who have not had the same outcome.

To me, that does not mean that they, too, are not survivors. Is the patient that made it through many surgeries not a survivor? How about those that endured countless chemotherapy treatments? Or those that who made it through rounds of radiation? The individual brave enough to partake in drug trials? And those who took the path of immunotherapy’s? Even those who went through a bone marrow transplants? Does the title of survivor not too belong to them?

I know, that is commonplace for the word survivor to be synonymous. But I believe that anybody who has faced the diagnosis of cancer is a survivor. The sheer strength and determination exhibited by those facing an uncertain future is beyond incredible. The capacity to get up and face the day when life has dealt you an altogether unfair hand is in itself, surviving.

And I am sure that some reading this may disagree with my definition of the word survivor. But to me, while the day has come for many who have been diagnosed with cancer that they are physically no longer here, yet still, I think of them as survivors.

Because long before they were patients, they were people. They have families and friends that love them and miss them. They had life goals, hopes and dreams that cancer stole away. And while cancer did take their lives, that does negate all that they were and how hard they fought.

All those people that I have been lucky enough to know, and the countless that I never knew; they all survived. They survived what no human body and soul should ever endure. They were as brave as brave can be. They fought with all they had and never gave up the fight. They loved, they shared laughter, they smiled and they lived. They were kind in the face of something so unkind. Each of them was is a lasting legacy that will live on far longer than cancer will. So yes, while the typical definition of survivor is those still surviving the disease; in my eyes, anyone who has faced this illness like a warrior was and will always be a survivor.