Last year National Cancer Survivors Day was over before I even knew it existed. I kind of shrugged it off. This year I was alerted to its approach via social media. And this year I’m decidedly not enthused about it.
I see the website, with tidbits like: “On Sunday, June 1, 2014, cancer survivors across the globe will unite to show the world what life after cancer looks like.” (Aside: that confuses me—is it “national”, which nation, but the around the globe quote seems it should be called international day????) Or, the tidbit mentioned on other blogs that the day is show life after cancer can be better?
Admittedly, I’m in a very bad mental space lately. Since March, I’ve had one health issue after another, starting with a suspicious mammogram that led to a relieving MRI that showed no evidence of recurrence-at least in my breasts. But after that it’s been other health issues, drugs with bad side effects, or maybe not—still trying to figure out what is going on with me. Meanwhile, I feel crappy, and I am torturing myself that all this indicates cancer is back somewhere else. I felt kind of “blah” the summer before I was diagnosed. And yes, I had that clear mammogram a mere 5 weeks before I was diagnosed with a big ass tumor that first time. So sorry, but I don’t have much patience in this process of trying to figure out my health problems without considering what I fear most.
So I’m not up to showing the world what life after cancer looks like—for me, it has been just riddled with fear, anxiety, and panic. Even if what is happening to me now is not recurrence, the fact I’m having such a difficult time tolerating or resolving new, other health issues just shows how much cancer has damaged my body—made me weaker and not as able to shake off what someone my age who has not had cancer might be able to do so easily. No, I don’t think the folks behind this event want me as a poster child for what life after cancer looks like. I wish I did look and feel like those smiling people in the survivor pictures, swimming, being active, oddly resembling ads for feminine hygiene products. Oh yes I went there. I may feel terrible, but I can’t stop my sarcasm.
As for that word survivor, once more for those in the back row—I do not consider myself a cancer survivor until I die of something else. I do not use it because my friends with Stage IV are not “losers”, and they are too often shut out of the rah-rah survivor discourse. I’ve written about this, and other cancer labels and language many, many times, so I’m putting links below to some of the ones I remember—I’m sure I’ve written about it in other posts that I’m just not remembering.
One final, parting shot thought: I’ve been merely re-posting old pieces lately. Yes, I’ve been too tired and feeling too crappy to write much. But that is not all. I find that I still feel mostly the same about all these issues. My mind has not changed too much. I used to think if I just kept writing and talking, the conversation about cancer could change. I no longer think that. I merely hope that at some point, the world will see there is not one single, happy story of cancer, there is not one “THE way” to do cancer (I’m thinking about that TV news person who introduced the clip of the dancing mastectomy woman by proclaiming her dance as “THE way to do cancer, folks”). At some point, I hope society will understand that there are thousands (millions?) of cancer stories out there, and no two are alike. And none of them are wrong. Taken together, they are the real, whole story of cancer.
The Other Other Language of Cancer
Why This Smart Ass Does Not Kick Ass
22 thoughts on “Because Sunday”
Guess you know my thoughts on NCSD. I just can’t embrace it; feels sort of like “lip service” to me. I have a problem with that implication that life can be better after cancer. That’s a slippery slope. And trying to show what life looks like post-cancer… as I asked in my post, is this really possible? Thanks for your thoughts. Hope you feel better soon.
Yes–it does seem like lip service, great point!
And yes, your post was one of the items motivating my little outburst today. And I’m thinking that it is NOT possible to show what life is like after cancer, at least for me.
Thanks for reading and as you know, I do so enjoy reading yours, and out chats this way.
As stage IV person in remission, but still in treatment, I do not feel I really fit in the survivor category. In fact, I’m not real sure where I fit. PET scan yesterday, so I may or may not even still be remission. Bottom still sore from faslodex shots yesterday. (Nurse yesterday was very young and very sweet, but I hope I do not get her again anytime soon.)
Day before yesterday, ran into someone who retired from teaching about 15 years ago. She was talking about how she was getting ready for her grandson’s wedding. I pray to see mine make it to kindergarten, and hopefully a little beyond.
Maybe that would be a good definition of a survivor, for you to have as good a chance as non-cancer people to see all those special events, to enjoy retirement, and to be finally free of treatments that cause fatigue and aching.
Your last sentence, that a survivor should have the same chance to see (and enjoy pain free) the same special events as others–absolutely!
Goodness, hope you do not get that nurse again too. I’m sure practice will improve her skills, but ugh, its hard to be the practice subject.
I hope treatment gets better for you. Your comments here bring home to me again, how hurtful this survivor box is, and why the word just irks so many of us.
Thank you for reading and commenting, I always enjoy reading your comments on other blogs as well. So honored you stop by my blog too! I keep you in my thoughts as you continue treatment.
National Cancer Survivors Day doesn’t mean much to me… I haven’t figured out why…. Maybe because I don’t give a shit about it to be perfectly honest. And I just realized typing this that today is exactly 7 years since I was diagnosed…. I think my mood is also bleh.
Perfect sentiment! I think in the future I’ll just as soon forget it. I’m just easily irked these days! I strive to not give a shit in the future, like you!
I know how you feel, I am two years out now and I can’t get over the fear. Some days are better than others but it is always there
Yes, as more time passed, I was able to keep the fear at bay–all of last year, I was good at keeping it in check. I guess that’s what happens when health breaks down a bit, all that fear just comes to the surface. Good luck, I hope you can keep it bay. Thanks for reading!
my thought on NCSD – meh. sometimes I wish I had the wherewithal to actually FEEL like a survivor, and i would never want to take that away from another person who celebrates it for themselves or their loved ones. but truthfully, I just feel indifferent to it, and even indifferent to my indifference!
I, too, highly doubt it’s possible for MBC people who are in remission but still dealing with all the losses, the monkey on our backs, and the fear factor (which I don’t really think about much anymore, but have great compassion and empathy for those who ride that roller-coaster) could ever convey what life is like after a diagnosis of cancer. one tries, but often encounters a lot of rebuttals, and not so much listening to show they understand. so I don’t even try anymore. thank goodness we all have each other!
Karen, you are right–thank goodness we have each other–it is probably impossible to really articulate the fear to others. Those that can enjoy the label of survivor, and wish to take part in NCSD should do so. I’d just rather not. Given that I only seem to be reminded of it as a result of visiting cancer-related media, rather than having it over-marketed in regular news media, I think in the future it will be easy to ignore. It just caught me at the wrong moment this year, during a fear spin cycle.
much love! CC
Well said as usual; I wrote this as a resolution as I awaited the next mastectomy: “I am not going to battle or wage a courageous fight against breast cancer. I decline to be a soldier in the war on my disease. Nor will I win or lose or survive any struggles as a crusader on a cancer campaign. The many professionals and supporters who saved my life are part of my team, not my army.” http://conflictcompetence.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/worlds-in-our-words/
The whole win/lose language rests upon a mindset that’s just too exhausting and judgmental. I’m for energy conservation – our own.
Well said as well Deborah! You are quite right, it IS exhausting. And I could certainly stand much less judging. Great to hear from you!
I love your concluding point. There are so many things that bother me about the survivor label but maybe the worst is that it puts a person in a box and ignores that we’re all different with our own stories. Something like ‘person who’s had a cancer diagnosis’ is more unwieldy for sure but a whole lot less problematic.
Great point Lisa. The boxes we are put in are very problematic in my view. And I’m very unsettled that there only seems to be one acceptable story told in our society. Yes, a whole phrase is too complicated, and I guess that is the problem–we wish to simplify cancer, something that is never going to be simple.
Thanks as always for reading!
I’ve never heard of NCSD (maybe it’s because I’m in the UK). I’m also not over keen on THE dancing mastectomy woman story… I have a strong distrust of the media so wonder was it meant to inspire or guilt trip the rest of us. We aren’t all dancing.
You’re spot on about the survivor label and I think it should be reserved for plane, train and car crashes i.e. accidents. Cancer isn’t an accident, it’s a scourge and it’s about time we find a way to prevent it so there’d be no need to use the word survivor or any of the other largely futile fighting talk
Oh wow, so maybe that answers one thing I wondered–its called national, but the website claims people across the globe participate. Frankly, I only know of it via cancer social media–unlike awareness month, which is visible everywhere, not just to the residents of Cancerland. Hmmm, strange.
As always, your comments make me think too many thoughts….hmmm, hopefully I can make time for more posts on this language of cancer topic.
Thanks Ute for sharing so deeply from your soul. I have a new appreciation for the word survivor now as well. I am sending rays of BEAMING LIGHT AND LOVE TO YOU through the spiritual waves of the cosmos!! With much gratitude for you…..
Thanks! Sending rays back to you too 🙂
Great post! I also kinda don’t give a shit about NCSD. And pretty sure my thoughts on the “language” of bc is V well known…this whole win/lose thing makes me just flip out. Anyway, love your blog…another great post…and I hope hope hope you get to feeling better soon. xx
Thanks! And after letting myself get annoyed this year, I am no longer giving a shit about NCSD either!
Last month or the month before, I was invited to attend a “special” occasion in our local small town sponsored by the American Cancer Society specifically for women who “survived” breast cancer.
When I first received the invitation, I was more interested in volunteering to help other breast cancer people than assist in any “party.”
My request was ignored. I was just another survivor – I felt like we, the ones who had breast cancer and are still among the living were to be put on display… kind of like zoo animals. I wanted no f***ing part of this.
My interest was to help others, not do a rah, rah, rah (probably dance on some stage) b.s. about “look how breast cancer is nothing to fear…” Needless to say, I did not attend. Not my cup of f’n tea.
I agree–I don’t like the “display” creepy feeling I get from this sort of thing.