Who am I? Am I a patient, a survivor, a fighter? From the beginning of my Cancer journey when reading resources available to find answers to the million questions I had, I read all these words defining “us”, “me”. Strange enough, I couldn’t relate to these words and still struggle to…
Not that I’m in denial, just that I pay attention to words as they truly matter to me.Read More
Well, I don’t think I am a fighter. Because, I don’t feel I fought. I handled the situation as I could. I tried to keep up, to respect my body for all what it was going through. A Cancer treatment is a marathon. In my views, for months, sometimes years, patients undergo harsh treatments to eliminate sick cells produced by their bodies. So, how can I possibly fight my own body? Was Cancer hiding in my body like a Trojan horse? In the same lexical field, then should I say that side effects are collateral damage. That’s a word that a Doctor told me once. But, I’m not a warrior and my body isn’t a battle field.
Not really. I don’t know. A survivor is in my mind someone who should have died. Maybe, I am a bit in denial: since the diagnosis I am aware of my mortality but never felt I was getting that close to death. That being said, if I go by the dictionary definition maybe I should not reject that word so abruptly. A survivor is someone who overcame a situation. In that case, it means that I made it. But did I? Are we sure? When will I be sure? In one, three or five years? I do my upmost to be a survivor and cross fingers (and toes!).
Undeniably, I am or was a patient. Strange enough, I never felt ill, just weak due to side effects for few days in each chemo cycle but not I’ll. I even refused to wear the gown in the hospital. Of course, I had no choice when admitted through ER but fast hubby would bring me comfy clothes. Yes, during admissions I would shower daily, dress up for the day and put pajamas for the night. Back to the vocabulary, yes, I was a Cancer patient.
What about brave and courageous?
So, what else? Some kindly told me I was “brave”. I know they meant something nice and always understood the intention while trying to explain them I wasn’t.
Brave is a person who chooses to take a challenge. I didn’t choose anything. I had no choice. If I could have, I would have run away. Thrown the hot potato somewhere else (not to anyone else though). Seriously, who wants a Cancer to prove anything to the world?
Once, a wonderful lady reworded and told me I was right and she should’ve said I was courageous. Fair, I handled a situation with a smile. I didn’t give up. Even after moments of down, I would wake up and try hard again. Now, I don’t know anyone who did give up. None of my fellow cancer patients did. Not that we are super heroes, just that hardship forces you to pull resources you didn’t know you had in you.
Why am I so concerned about words?
This might sound like a detail to you however I met many patients who shared similar views. Words are shaping our thoughts; they reflect a paradigm when shared with the rest of the world. Words can’t be withdrawn. They have the power to lift you up or break your heart.
Think about the words used for end of life.
Some words can really hurt.
I feel bad when I read that someone who died from Cancer “lost his / her fight”. For God sake, this is not a game with winners or losers. This is not a battle. To fight, we would need to have weapons, to see the enemy. No one loses. No one is a loser. This doesn’t sound right…. Same applies to “succumb to the disease”. In both cases, it feels that the patient was not strong enough, willing to live. I wouldn’t want anyone to write something like that about me. Sometimes flourish language doesn’t make us any favor. People die from Cancer. There is no word to embellish that, none will that will help to honor their memory.
Some the same reasons, the words used by Oncologists have the greatest importance. I must say, treated in Dubai I had no bad experience in that aspect but heard horrific stories.
Mine were always careful with their words. No over promises, factual but comforting, caring. Some friends weren’t that lucky to say the least. I won’t waste time and energy giving too much space to these, my only advice would be: change. Go to a Doctor who will respect you as human being. This must be a long-term relationship based on trust. Words matter.
Bottom line, I don’t know what I am.
I was a patient, hopefully a survivor. I take that I have been courageous most of the days.
Sometimes, to make it easier, I say I’m a Cancer survivor. People need boxes to define you. So be it.
I know not all patients might share my views. These are all very personal thoughts. We just need to be mindful of what we say, when and to whom. If you have friends going through this journey, keep in mind that your words can impact them more than you think.
My purpose isn’t to advocate for new words as hopefully, we won’t need to add new vocabulary to define better lives touched by Cancer. In fact, hopefully, and the sooner the better, thanks to research, the Cancer word itself will be out of our dictionary.