educating others about what it means to be a survivor

In relation to the discussion of the term survivor, I wonder whether we need to redefine or, at least, clarify the word in cancer land so that the world at large understands that anyone who has or has had cancer is recognized as a survivor. If we talk about it generally to be inclusive instead of pertaining only to those who are in remission, we can  continue using the term and reject the idea that we need yet another label that misinforms anyone outside the group. Personally, I don’t like labels because they are either too general to be descriptive or too exclusive to apply to mos

As far as being survivors, from a general point of view, I think we are all part of the same group. We may have differences, but like other groups that bear a common name, like student, the generalization does not need to mean that our experiences are the same. As I think about the issue, I am inclined to think that many people simply do not know that survivor encompasses everyone who is treating, whether for primary, locally advanced or metastasis. For those who are interested, we may need to do a little education as to what metastatic breast cancer is. Let’s face it, we’re not out celebrating the fact that we are trying to stay alive every day through treatments and coping with side effects and other debilitating results of the cancer or its treatment, so many people identify survivor with those who are in remission because they are the ones celebrating their “last day of” chemo or radiation.

Where do you think we should start to help people understand what they need to know about cancer survivors? About metastatic breast cancer?

Do we need to shake up the misunderstanding that remission does not mean a cure? Do you think that a lot of people assume that the “last day of” chemo or radiation means the person is cured?

If you have mets, do you think we should have a different label? What label would that be?

Let’s start thinking about it. As always, your comments are welcome either here or by e-mail to dancingsoles at gmail dot com. I want to hear from you.

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© 2004–2012 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.

3 responses to “educating others about what it means to be a survivor

  1. I hate the word survivor. The only thing I survived was the cancer treatment. Even my oncologist says we won’t know whether I survived the cancer until/unless I die of something else!

  2. Donna,
    This is absolutely discussion-worthy and there is no better place for it to happen but HERE. I agree with Laura. Every word.

    Your questions are thought provoking although some of them I can answer quite quickly…
    1-This requires lots of thought but first thing that pops into my head, we are forever changed and even 20 years later, can still be looking over our shoulders. My mom did… and 20 years later…. when she may have finally let her guard down a bit, “You have cancer.” Round two (or three). That’s just for STARTERS.
    2-Mets? That 30% of early stage BC dx’s with recur outside the breast, meaning metastatic. That metastasis to the bones does not mean you have bone cancer (ditto, liver, lung, brain). That people with mets know WHY they will die. That mets patients are as much a part of the breast cancer community as any one of us. There is treatment but you just always hope the tx will work or that when it stops, there is another tx you can try. I’ll stop there…. We should write a book. The ignorance is upsets me.
    4-AND YES
    5-6…. I’m only your #Fearless Friend. That is not a discussion in which my opinion should be considered. AT ALL. What I should do, however, is make sure that I honor your choice and that others do, too.

    So much love,

  3. Roni (RaptorRapture)

    Short answer: To me, anyone who has, or had had cancer of any form it a survivor of cancer (and the treatments for it). If that is not enough for everyone to understand, then they have not yet been on the road. There are so many footprints on that road, I can barely make out yours from mine anymore.

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