I will never call myself a ‘cancer survivor’ because I think it devalues those who do not survive. There’s this whole mythology that people bravely battle their cancer and then they become ‘survivors.’ Well, the ones who don’t survive may be just as brave, just as courageous, wonderful people and I don’t feel that I have any leg up on them.


— Barbara Ehrenreich 

Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

10 thoughts on “Perfect”

    1. Some say a cancer patient is a survivor from the moment of diagnosis. That seemed like counting chickens before they hatched to me—what if treatment did not work for me?
      As I finished treatment and became aware of other opinions, particularly mets patients, I realized how insensitive the word might be, and decided to avoid it. I’ve discussed this before in older posts like The Other Other Language of Cancer and The Curmudgeon Formerly Known as Cancer Patient. But those are just a lot of words from my rambling mind that say what Ehrenreich says so well here.
      Of course, I’ve argued on this blog that I’m not particularly brave either, so maybe I don’t 100% agree with her quote—but I still like it.


  1. I do call myself a survivor sometimes simply because I can’t come up with a better word. Having said this, I totally agree with Barbara Ehrenreich’s comment. Totally. Have you read her book?


    1. Yes, survivor can work because patient is not as accurate, and former patient (or other terms) is too much to say!
      I’m a long-time fan of hers—I read Nickel and Dimed when it came out—I did not know about her breast cancer until after I was diagnosed. I’ve read parts of Bright-Sided. But, being a former patient (ha ha) who still tires quickly and gets distracted, it takes me longer to get through even books I like! 


  2. I don’t believe that I “deserve” life anymore than all the sisters who died trying to find their way through breast cancer.I don’t call myself a ” breast cancer survivor” but for the sake of sanity, I don’t mind it. IMO, death after a serious attack on your health is not a punishment.


    1. Yes, like Nancy’s Point says–using the word is easier.
      Hmmm, I don’t really think of death as punishment, and I’d not really considered punishment as a concept in the BS swirling around the survivor talk–it always seemed to me to be about winners and losers. Now–cancer itself as punishment, absolutely my mind has gone there. Might write a post about it sometime.


  3. I don’t know what the hell to call myself – but can respect what others choose for themselves. I just want to live. and whether I do or I don’t semantics will have very little impact – unless they use “brave,
    “battle”, “fight” in my obit.

    love you,

    Karen xoxo


    1. I suppose semantics are like the “be positive” mandate–they make no difference in the biological or medical rules of cancer and whether one lives or dies. They only matter in the quality of life and how well or not well they make us feel while navigating cancer, maybe? Hmmm, something to ponder.
      Love ya-CC


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