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I Had Cancer But I Questioned If I Am Truly a Survivor

February 20th, 2018 |

by Merry-40736 | Survivor: Lung Cancer    Connect

There is often, for some reason, a controversy over who a survivor is or not. This makes no sense to me at all. If you were hit by a car and almost died, would you be a survivor? Would it make a difference if someone saved you or if it was just luck that you didn't die? To me, a survivor is someone who is alive after an event where others have passed away. It doesn't matter if you had a hand for your survival or had help. It doesn't make any difference what you do after, or how long you live (survive) after. You exist, even if you are fighting the disease. And as long as you exist you are a survivor. I can't stand the nitpicking of subcategories: if you survive chemo and your cancer never comes back you are a survivor. But what if my cancer comes back after a period of time was I still a survivor or do I have to start all over again? Was I a double survivor? Is there a name for this?

While I was healing from my first lobectomy, during my first diagnosis of lung cancer, I had a lot of time to reflect on this - what it meant for me to have had cancer, have it operated on, and need no further treatments. It felt like I was lacking something, like a tight lifeline to the end of a story. I was told that there were no successful follow-up treatments for this kind of cancer. I knew so many people who have had follow-up treatments and I "wanted" one because I felt that if I didn't I wouldn't be a survivor.

You had to go through the whole shebang to be a survivor, right? Things needed to be fair, and I needed to feel that I had all of the advantages of being a true survivor as anyone else. Chemo or radiation would be proof of that!! I remember one time about a month after my surgery, I was standing in the grocery line. There were two people in front of me, one was a neighbor and the one in back of me I recognized as we had followed each other around the store that morning. My neighbor asked how I was doing and a conversation started up between all of us about cancer. The gal in back of me even chimed in!! All three had had breast cancer and chemo or radiation! When I left the store I didn't feel left out of their tales of wigs and stomach problems but honored to have been with such brave women. I felt awed by these women, warmed as if the sun wrapped me in its heat, like the Florida sun on an orange, ripening its fruit. Although I loved being with these gals I knew that I didn't really need to have chemo or radiation to be a survivor. I just needed to hold my head up and walk proudly. I had survived as much as they had.

My cancer was a 2.4 cm, poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma. It had very extensive necrosis, cell distortion, and was very fast growing. On the morning of October 3rd, I had a bronchoscopy, mediastinoscopy and a thoracotomy. At this moment in time, as I remember back, I had some pretty impressive scars. Yes, they itched and were an angry red as they healed but most importantly they were reminders of how big of a deal that operation was. It was huge. I was no longer just a 50-year-old woman, wife, mother, sister, friend stubborn, maybe obstinate at times. I was a cancer survivor!!

Since that time, I’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer two more times. I am now a three-time cancer survivor.

But still, I don't want to be a definition of someone's idea of what life is after cancer. It would be like a timer being set for an egg - will I be soft boiled or hard boiled?

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Merry-40736's picture

Merry is a a twenty-year lung cancer survivor. She lives in southern Rhode Island with her husband.She has had four lung cancers. six tumors, two operations, chemo and two different radiations; Proton and Photon. Her last cancer was 3 months ago.