I’ve been battling cancer for what, 3 and a half years now? Something like that? I’ve been in remission before for I think like 8 months as well. But I had a recurrence (am I using that word correctly?) and went back into treatment for another year and now I just finished my chemo regimen. So I’m off treatment now and am just gonna live my life like normal for as long as I can before the cancer comes back and I have to enter treatment again. So that leaves me with a question: am I a cancer survivor?
I’ve always had this question. I was diagnosed as being terminal with 6 months to live about 3 years ago, so did I become a cancer survivor when I rang in the new year and outlived that prognosis? Or did I become a cancer survivor when I went into remission the year after that? See, I don’t know, because you can’t be cancer survivor as far as I’m concerned. Like, if you were a Jew in the 1940s and went to a concentration camp and then were still alive when your camp was liberated, that makes you a Holocaust survivor, right? You were involved in a situation and you were still alive to see the end of it. I’m a high school survivor because I was alive when I enrolled and I was alive when I graduated. Simple. But with cancer, you may have a definitive start date of when you were diagnosed, but there isn’t an end date of when cancer is no longer going to affect you. Like, I’m not going back to high school. I can say with 100% confidence that I will not have a high school recurrence. But with cancer, even when you finish your treatment and have clear scans, you can still have a recurrence. Odds of your cancer returning don’t dwindle until 5 years after you go into remission, so at what point are you a survivor?
The reason I ask this is because I feel left out. Can I join survivor support groups? Can I go on Facebook and request to join one and not get laughed out of the group when I say I’m still bald with tumors in my chest? And what about recurrence? If I go into remission and claim myself as a survivor, do I then lose that status when I go back into treatment? I feel left out because everywhere I look it’s “survivor” shit. Wanna run a marathon? It’s free if you’re a survivor. Well shit, am I one of those? Is it free as long as you don’t look at my last set of CT scans? Plus, I would love for the moment when I can call myself a survivor. That would be dope. For the day when my doctor looks at me and says “you beat cancer” and I walk out of the hospital forever. I would crack some champagne and throw Project X round 2 if that were a thing. But it’s not like that. When I was done high school, they weren’t like “Congrats! Now we might make you take more classes sometime in the next 5 years without warning, but you’re basically done with high school. Probably maybe.” That would certainly take the air out of your graduation balloon now wouldn’t it?
So I don’t like the term “survivor.” It’s too vague. It’s too hyped up to not be a definable thing. I’m sure there is stuff online stating a clear definition but I don’t really think cancer works that way. To think you can just one day claim to have survived it. Seems like a bunch of nonsense to me. I think we should use a scale. Survivor is too binary. I think we should say some’s “got a whole bunch,””got just a lil bit,””doesn’t have any for now,”and “hasn’t had any for awhile.” A four-step process describing what level of cancer you’re at. It could also but used to describe how much you’re getting laid too. Like if your buddy has had clean scans for two months and hasn’t been laid in a year, you can say he “doesn’t have any for now” to both! Flawless system I think.
But that’s just me. All you survivors can have fun, I’ll be enjoying my “got just a lil bit” party over here.