Sunday, January 8, 2023



Written in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985 was an article titled Seasons of Survival: Reflections of a Physician with Cancer which was aimed to transform cancer 'victims' into cancer 'survivors'. Then a few years later in the Atlanta Journal Constitution an activist named Sharon J. Lang wrote an article titled Women with Breast Cancer Are Warriors.

Based on a story by Jessica Zucker and Sara Gaynes Levy that I read, I felt very moved by their words. Anyone who has had breast cancer knows how quickly the comments start. Actually, the moment that I received my diagnosis from my doctor and started telling others, I started hearing the words that I was a warrior and I will beat this, etc.

I know that I did not feel like a warrior. In truth, I felt very vulnerable. I had something that I had no control over, no matter how hard I wanted to go into battle with cancer. The fact was that to me breast cancer was not a battle to fight. I was not comforted by the warrior language and just trying to keep up with the language of being a fighter was totally exhausting. 

Yes, I felt like saying, "F__ uck cancer." I was just not feeling like fighting my body. I did feel like remaining positive and staying on track with what my doctors were telling me. However, I am not one of those who assumes that my positive attitude alone can actually defeat the cancer. I know that is not true. What I do know is that it can't hurt the situation at all. There was a time after radiation when the oncologist was trying different medications that I just wanted to curl up in bed and pretend that this isn't happening. It felt like a nightmare.

To remain positive was really not a choice for me. I am a positive person just by nature. However, it made me feel overwhelmed when others called me a fighter. In my mind, I turned it around and just knew that it made them feel good letting me know that they had faith that I would overcome the "C" word. 

It all boils down to how the person who has the cancer feels about how to talk about it. What feels right for you? And know that your way of thinking can be changing as you go through your treatments. For me? I did not want to be called anything. Vulnerability is medicine. Openness is medicine. There are other ways than trying to be tough. Just be soft. As one cancer survivor, Rasee Govindani said, "Being broken open and being met right there is a kind of magic."

Patients say over and over again that they just want their ongoing instability understood compassionately. 

1 comment:

  1. D.J.,my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer decades after ovarian cancer.She was always a positive and proactive person and bravely took each step with surgery and followup treatment becoming cancer free.My dad was her #1 support person I remember her asking me one day if I could bring pur sons(4 and 5) to her chemo session.It was her way of letting the! know not to be afraid because Grandma has cancer.She would often flip her wig and show her baldness.It was real but she said that cancer would not define who she was.She was a woman of faith.She became a survivor and thriver of life.Ten years later her cancer returned and met as fixed.She had lung surgery and treatments again but her body weakened and her hope in the Lord brought peace and acceptance.She passed away in '92.I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2004.I was fortunate as detected early before invasion.All I can say is to be proactive with follow ups.Never judge a person diagnosed with cancer on what options they choose.For me,a normalcy was important to me.Be the listener for the person dealing with it.We all handle life differently.I empathize with you blog for thoughts.Prayers for a Happy,Healthy New Year for you.Linda Sturdivant