Today is National Cancer Survivors Day. (It's also National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. Seems legit.) National Cancer Survivors Day is an annual celebration of life meant to honour those living with - and living after - cancer.
I feel uncomfortable with a lot of the language surrounding cancer. Words like battle and fighter and even survivor feel a little outside my cancer experience. I'm not saying those words are wrong. I'm just saying they don't feel like they fit me. They feel bigger than my experience.
And it goes both ways. Lisa Bonchek Adams wrote:
"When I die don't say I "fought a battle." Or "lost a battle." Or "succumbed."
Don't make it sound like I didn't try hard enough, or have the right attitude, or that I simply gave up."
Language can amplify. Language can diminish. Language can distort.
National Cancer Survivors Day feels bittersweet to me. Part of me feels like I'm trying to fit into somewhere I don't belong. Part of me feels uncomfortable celebrating survivors like the people who don't survive somehow don't count. And part of me is happy that there is a conversation surrounding survivorship.
I was diagnosed with cancer when I was thirty years old. I am hoping to live more years as a cancer survivor than I did pre-cancer. Survivorship - living a full and meaningful life after cancer - weighs heavily on my mind. At times I feel stuck. I feel mad that I was diagnosed with cancer at a young age. I feel scared that the cancer may come back. I feel unable to move past the fear and anger. And sometimes I feel grateful that I have the privilege of survivorship. That my good cancer (Best! Cancer! Ever!) (barf) has afforded me the luxury of worrying about living my best life instead of worrying about living period.
My head is not an easy place to live is what I'm saying.
I did not kick cancer's ass. But it didn't kick mine either. I may not quite feel like I deserve the title survivor but I survived.