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Are You a Cancer Victim, Warrior, or Thriver?

I’ve read many articles that describe people with cancer as “cancer victims,” “warriors,” or “thrivers.” At times, these descriptive words given to my condition have made me kind of angry. Then, I began to think about what these words really mean to me.

The cancer victim

The noun “victim” (as per the Cambridge dictionary) is described as “someone or something that has been hurt, damaged, or killed or has suffered, either because of the actions of someone or something else, or because of illness or chance.”

Being a victim is not a statement of weakness

Upon reading the description, the last sentence, in particular, immediately resonated with me. I had indeed suffered because of illness. I always felt like the word “victim” was a kind of self-inflicted state. But it’s not. Sometimes, being a victim is thrust upon us, through no fault or weakness of our own. Actually reading those words gave me a kind of empowerment. I realized that being referred to as a cancer victim is not a statement of weakness.

The cancer warrior

The word “warrior” (as per Cambridge dictionary) – “a soldier, usually one who has both experience and skill in fighting, especially in the past. A person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.”

I never felt like a warrior

I can’t count the number of people who said to me, “you can beat this,” “you can fight this cancer”, or “cancer won’t win with you.” Now, I know all these statements were said in good faith and meant to show support and encouragement. But the truth is, the last thing that I felt like was a warrior. I was suffering badly with fatigue; I had no energy and generally felt just dreadful. The last thing that I felt up for was a battle with cancer.

I was summoning up all of my strength

It was like being on a rollercoaster ride that wouldn’t allow me to disembark. But that definition of the word “warrior” again made me think differently. I was summoning up all the strength I could muster to deal with appointments and surgeries. I would much rather have stayed tucked up in bed. But for every appointment and every procedure, I was there. I was never late and I never missed one. Doesn’t that just exemplify the vigor and strength we, as cancer patients, display?

The cancer thriver

The Cambridge dictionary definition of “thrive” is “to grow, develop, or be successful.”

After my diagnosis and surgery, I’m now nearly 3 years in remission. I’m classed currently as a cancer thriver. So, has cancer helped me to thrive, grow, or develop? Well, the answer to that is a big, fat “yes”!

The feeling of being alive

I have certainly grown. Before cancer, I was wrapped up with my career pretty much 24/7. I now take time for me. Each year of remission, I set myself a challenge, something really outside of my comfort zone. To date, I have taken part in the Indian Rickshaw Run – 2 weeks of driving an auto-rickshaw from the top to the bottom of India. I’ve taken a helicopter ride over the canyons. I’ve even dined in a cable car high above Singapore (and I’m terrified of heights). But the exhilaration and feeling of being alive that these experiences have given cannot be measured.

So yes, I was a cancer victim and warrior. But now my sights are just set on thriving.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The BladderCancer.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Renata Louwers moderator
    1 week ago

    Shirley, I love your thoughtful deconstruction of these sort of “trigger” words that are so emotionally charged for so many of us who have experienced different aspects of cancer. And I really love the amazing experiences you’ve pushed yourself to do….driving a rickshaw across India?? Wow! You go all in when you decide to push the boundaries of the comfort zone. Thanks for sharing this:)

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