I hate the word “survivor”

July 16, 2009

After returning home in December from the Salt Lake City area and Huntsman Cancer Hospital, I joined my family on the ski hill in January for my first day of skiing. Many people congratulated me on my cancer free victory and our return to Montana.

In the doorway to the ski shop was the clerk who knows my family well and knew of my situation. She gave me a big hug, asked how I was doing and then said, “You are a survivor and you will lead the Relay for Life in June!”

The word “survivor” and the phrase “Relay for Life” caught me cold. I felt like water was splashed on my face. I kind of stammered, said “yes”, and walked away. I was experiencing these odd emotions and I didn’t understand them.

A survivor. I wanted to scream, “I don’t want to be a survivor! I don’t want to be known as a survivor because I wasn’t supposed to have cancer!!!” The word survivor was like a wool sweater on my skin, itchy and uncomfortable.

Being called a survivor was tough to hear but then hearing I will walk in the survivors lap at Relay for Life really blew my mind. I wasn’t supposed to be a survivor, nor walk in Relay for Life!

That incident was my first public experience in recognizing I got through it, I got through my chemotherapy and all my treatments. I was not only a cancer survivor but I was also a transplant survivor. Psychologically I wasn’t strong enough to handle the reality of the last seven months. I had to work through this survivorship and acknowledge and live with the fact that the past seven months were finished.

That was the first of my confusion after having cancer. My body was finished but my mind now needed to catch up to the reality I did indeed have cancer. But thankfully, with the support of my husband, my cancer support group which was a safe place to question myself and lastly, my retreat with the Walk to Emmaus and my pastor encouraging me to just trust God, I got through the psychological phase and now I am really living life again.

Tomorrow night I am walking the survivors lap at Relay for Life. I am actually going to do it. I was told it is quite an emotional experience to walk with all these survivors and care givers. I don’t know what to expect. I suppose my tears will flow for myself, for my fellow survivors and for those I am carrying in my heart and mind who have passed to cancer and who are currently fighting their battle with cancer.

relay for life, July 17, 2009

Relay for Life
July 17, 2009

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