Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gloria Gaynor was wrong

The first time I really noticed the term "cancer survivor" was when someone applied it me, less than a day after my initial diagnosis. He was only joking about my newfound qualification to date Sheryl Crow, but it started me thinking. A lot of people to whom I have told my cancer story since have mentioned that they too are "cancer survivors." And I appreciate that they are willing to share their stories with me, and they have helped me feel that there is hope. Truly there is bond among the diseased.

But I still think a lot about that term, "cancer survivor." In general terms, you are diagnosed with cancer, you fight it, and if you win, it goes away. You are then considered a "cancer survivor. " (Please note the abundance of war metaphors in this whole thing.)

I know I'm just nitpicking semantics here, but in many ways, it seems as though this doesn't apply to me. First, I haven't fought anything, at least not with any kind of toxic treatment. This appeals to my slacker nature, but it does make me feel like I haven't earned the appellation.

Furthermore, this type of cancer can never really be beaten -- it may go into remission, but it will never go away. So I will always have cancer, until I die, at which point I quickly cease to be any kind of survivor.

I guess the underlying paradox is that I will never be a true "cancer survivor," but that's kind of meaningless to me because, right now I live and feel like I don't have cancer at all. No kidding. If I was to describe myself to someone, cancer would maybe be the 10th or 11th thing I would mention.

Aside from furrows in the brows of the bean counters at my insurance company as they look over the costs of all of the medical services I've used, and a lot of waiting in hospitals and doctors office, having had cancer for four years hasn't really affected me at all. And much though my contrarian nature enjoys being different and unusual in whatever way, I have to admit its pretty darned confusing, too.

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