When I began this blog, in October, 2011, I described myself as: “… a 44 year old breast cancer “warrior”….meaning that I am actively battling the disease, but not yet far enough along to call myself a “survivor”. I believed that the term survivor was reserved for those who were declared cancer-free, and that I had not yet earned myself that title. I figured that once my treatments were done, and there was no evidence of disease left in my body, only then could I call myself a survivor.
On March 30th, I drove myself to the hospital for my last radiation treatment. As I walked back to my car afterwards I thought, “So, this is it. It’s done. Can I now finally call myself a survivor?” There were no banners or fireworks to mark the occasion. No news camera crews were rushing at me asking, “So, Florence, how does it feel to be a survivor?” In fact the staff at the Cancer Centre hadn’t even bothered to get me a cake. It was then that I made an important realization.
Being a survivor is not about killing cancer cells. For all I know, there could still be tiny, living cancer cells lurking in my body, ready to take up residence elsewhere. What if I wait for the much anticipated five year mark? Then do I call myself a survivor? Well, I know of cases where cancer returned 15 or even 20 years after the initial diagnosis. So can one really ever say that they SURVIVED cancer? I guess it is only if we die of something else that we truly can say we survived cancer.
That was my Ah-Ha moment! The moment I realized that being a survivor is not about what cancer does to your body, but about what it does to your spirit, and that I had been a survivor all along. Cancer did not diminish my faith in God, or weaken my relationships with my loved ones. It did not steal my hopes and dreams. It did not make me doubt my belief in myself and my ability to face any challenge. Cancer weakened my body, but my spirit has never been stronger.
None of us knows the hour of our death. It may be 4 years from now, or 44 years from now. Whatever the time, I want to make one thing clear. Let it never be said that Florence lost her battle with cancer. Cancer might take my body, but it will never take my spirit. I AM A SURVIVOR!
Tip: Repeat after me: I am a survivor!