For crying out loud, don’t call me a warrior

Cancer and war language are so often linked. Someone battles this disease. They are a warrior in combat day in and day out. Many people feel empowered by painting themselves as fighters. But I am not one of those people. Here are some of the reasons I steer clear of conflict-based language when it comes to my existence.

  1. This warrior will lose. War language seems to be more embraced in the “survivor” community. Perhaps because there is a sense of having fought and won. But, with stage iv, that’s not generally how this works. Most of us will die of cancer. We will be the failed warriors that perished during our valiant efforts. On some level, we have already lost. No thanks. My mortality knocks at my head on a daily basis. I don’t need words to remind me that my time is most likely limited and oh so hard. And that all of this will wind up in defeat. I’m here until I’m not.
  2. Why reinforce the challenge? There is already so much conflict navigating cancer. So why would I want to reinforce the brutality and decimation this journey brings? Someone once told me that what you choose to focus on will grow. It seems by setting myself up as a fighter, I will always be fighting. But I’d rather focus on the pockets in between. That’s where I get to find life. I am living with cancer.
  3. Personifying gives this thing more power than it deserves. Cancer is one of the only diseases that is highly personified. It’s treated like an outside entity, an opponent or a serial killer, you have to evade or spar with on a daily basis. Granted, that’s what it feels like most of the time but, the truth is, cancer is just wonky biology. There’s no face to it, no body, no one to punch or push or yell at. It’s a big sack of “they don’t know why you have it and other people don’t” along with the bag of unknown as to whether the treatment will work for any period of time. Because what they do know is whatever treatment you are on when you are metastatic, will ultimately fail. But back to the personification aspect – I’d rather not give cancer more power than it deserves. Having a body is a privilege. Being a person is a gift. Cancer doesn’t get to be that. Cancer gets to be the shitty cells not doing the gift of my body any favors.
  4. Just being a person is hard work. Following this logic, we are all warriors. Life is a challenge for anyone. Getting out of bed, no matter your circumstances, makes you a fighter. I am not looking to over-identify with this disease or trump any else’s experiences. We are in the human trenches together as one. I’d rather not extricate myself from that or set myself apart. Doing that would be a good way for me to foster entitlement, cut myself off from being of service and let depletion take over even in times of rebuilding. Let’s be human together and support each other during this weird, beautiful and often difficult ride we’re on. 
  5. Facing life. During this journey, I try as much as I can to stay life facing. Words matter. If I am going to plug into vitality, vibrance and being, when I have the energy, this needs to be reflected in the words I use and accept. I know that my future reality will include hospitalizations, tears on the bathroom floor, challenges with mobility, the list goes on…all of that scares me. But if I can move through the good moments consciously and with a modicum of healthy denial, without giving too much verbal form to future gloom and doom, the current ride is way more pleasant. I find ease with easy language. I feel life with life facing terminology.
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17 thoughts on “For crying out loud, don’t call me a warrior

  1. Long before I came up with incurable lymphoma I detested the words “fighting” and “survivor” and saw them as a fundraising gimmick by the many cancer organizations. The one day a lady with stage 4 colorectal cancer told me she found strength and hope when she saw a “survivor”. I polled the waiting room of cancer patients and asked them if they agreed. Every one said yes and some very forcefully. I still do not like the word “fighting” for the reasons you give but now gladly say YES when asked if I am a survivor.

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    1. Thank you for your note. I am so glad you find empowerment in that. It’s amazing what the “right” words can do. While this term may not resonate with me, it sounds like a wonderful tool for you and others. I am so pleased you shared your experience. Thank you again.

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  2. Wow- it’s refreshing to read this and know that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I also wrote about it and wish society would take the “fight” off of the patient and put it where it belongs, with doctors, researchers, equipment manufacturers, insurance companies, drug companies, etc. Those are the people who chose to enter the ring. If it’s a fight, the win or loss should be on them. Let those with cancer enjoy life! Thank you for your great blog.

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      1. Thank you, Molly! I’m following you too and looking forward to connecting more. Life has ups and downs but they’re all so much better when we surround ourselves with amazing people! 🌺

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  3. *Focus on the pockets in between”
    I love this statement. We all have challenges in life and some challenges are more serious than others. It’s when we take a break and focus on all that is positive in our life that we truly appreciate it.

    Liked by 1 person

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