This month’s conversation about what “survivor” means to many of us continues on, but let’s look back on the many ideas that have come up so far, there were some disagreements… about the central issue of “survivor” as a positive achievement, or a sort of defining mill-stone. For some people the word is a “badge” to be worn “proudly”, but “it totally rubs others the wrong way. What we hear is that cancer patients just want their lives back and want to go back to being “normal”. However, one of the secrets of being a cancer survivor is that there is no going back and that you have to create a “new normal”” (Mara B, Administrator). This perspective led to one comment about coming to terms with “living with cancer” rather than being a “survivor of cancer.” (Marg M). There is also the pressure that being a survivor can impose. As patient Kathleen suggested, “I felt that I had to live up to certain expectations and I still do, seven years out”. Surviving is a goal of course, but many felt we should be careful that it doesn’t become the only lens we look through.
As with our conversation about “Care” last month, you can see a word cloud for Survivor on this post too, which allows us to see what the more common words from all the perspectives pieces have been. Bigger words on the word cloud have been used most often, and smaller ones a little less often. (We filtered out the keywords “Cancer” and “Survivor” from the cloud, this time around)
For us, some of the larger words on this month’s cloud – “become”, “experience”, “living” – seem to help to explain some of the ways those touched by cancer reconcile themselves to the condition, and survive. “Become” is a word that could be connected to re-inventing yourself, and making a new you, post-diagnosis. “Experience” seems to suggest a way of thinking about the disease that is quite circumspect – in some ways being a cancer survivor could be seen as being someone who looks at cancer as more than an affliction alone. “Living” is the normal state of being that being a survivor really means – all of us affected directly or indirectly by cancer strive to live our lives beyond the condition.
Do you see the word cloud differently? Please leave a comment below if it suggests other things to you about what our conversation on “survivor” has shown us.