Let me begin by saying, that while I recognize the word “awesome” to be one of the most over-used words in the English language, I just had an awesome weekend with Shawn and our friends, Don and Phyllis in beautiful Terra Nova Park.
Awesomeness, of course, is a very personal thing. I am sure that for some, driving hundreds of kilometers in an ATV, hiking through insect infested trails, cooking beans on a Coleman stove, and peeing in an outhouse, would be more the stuff that nightmares are made of. But for me, it was a totally awesome experience (sorry, there’s that word again).
It was a weekend of eating too much, drinking too much, and laughing….lots (you can never laugh too much).
I had my trusty Nikon along to capture memories of the weekend, but some of the most poignant moments are recorded only in my heart. One such moment was standing on an old bridge watching the sunset over the hills as Shawn fished in the river below. Don walked up to me and said, “Ya know, Flo, this is what life is really all about, moments just like this.”
Those words really struck a chord, not only because of the obvious wisdom contained within, but also because of the respect I have for this man. About ten years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia and given 3 to 5 years to live. Don is a survivor.
The word “survivor”, like the word “awesome” means different things to different people. Recently I took part in a lively debate in the blogosphere about the term cancer survivor. While some people proudly wear the label, others find it outright offensive. I GET both sides of the argument. If you take the term SURVIVOR to just mean someone who physically outlives cancer, then I have a problem with it. It implies that those who outlive cancer, are somehow stronger, or fight a better fight than those who die from it. That is utter nonsense. If the will to live and putting up a good fight were all that it took to beat cancer, I can think of many people who would be alive right now. On the other hand, if you take the term SURVIVOR to mean someone who uses all the resources within and around them to give the best fight that they possibly can give to beat this disease, then I proudly wear the label!
So when I call Don a survivor, I am not referring to the fact that he has outlived his original prognosis. I am referring to the way that he has lived his life in the face of this diagnosis. Don credits his survival in part to the fact that he did not stop living when the doctors passed him his death sentence. Rather he took on new challenges, set new goals, and continued to fulfill lifelong dreams. That is what makes him a survivor, and if the day ever comes that leukemia takes his life, then in my books he will die as he lived: A survivor!