It was just a couple of months ago that I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. It seems odd to even say or think the word cancer since in my case the diagnosis and the removal of it occurred within days of each other. In other words, could I really be a cancer survivor when I really don’t feel as if I ever had cancer?

Very shortly after I lost my job at the hospital two years ago, I found out one of my friends still working there was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. They gave her six months to live. As of last week, she is still alive but in so much pain that she refuses to see anyone. The only treatment available to her at this point makes her violently ill and unable to function physically or mentally. Her family doesn’t know if she’ll make it through the holidays.

Last week we received word that Sparring Partner’s CousinP from Boston, the one who graciously gave up his free time to me while I was visiting there, was diagnosed with testicular cancer. We don’t know any more than that right now except that he has taken the news very, very hard.

S.P. told me I should give him a call and talk to him “about what we had in common.” Obviously, I understand where he was coming from but the suggestion was ludicrous because I just don’t feel as if I do have anything in common with him, just as I don’t know how to talk to my friend who is quite likely on her deathbed with cancer.

I had a cancerous growth. I had it removed. I don’t see myself as a cancer survivor and quite frankly, I’m sure many feel the same way towards those with this particular type of cancer…some might even say it’s a pseudo cancer.

I rarely think of it, except when I accidentally hit my leg against something or when Aitch demands to see my “big owie” (to which she always exclaims “Oooh! That’s a big owie!” and then kisses it to “make it better”). Sometimes I examine it while getting dressed. I stopped commenting out loud about how ugly the remaining scar is as S.P. would remind me, almost reprovingly, “The cancer was ugly. This (he would look pointedly at the hole in my leg) is not ugly.”

I appreciate his sentiment, but I guess I’m vain. The large scar seems to be the “pay off” for what seems to be a curable (for the time being) cancer; simply cut it out much like a rotten spot from an apple.

My friend with terminal cancer is a survivor, regardless of what comes in the next few weeks. My husband’s cousin will be a survivor because of the uncertainty he will face. If I am lucky (very, very lucky) my cancer will not return and I will never have to perceive myself as a survivor.

11 thoughts on “Survivor”

  1. Coming late to this.
    You are a survivor. You had a cancer diagnosis. This sis a big thing. Yes you were lucky that treatment was relatively straightforward and uninvasive but still it could have been different. You stared your own mortality in the face in a way that most of us haven’t. I call that being a survivor.

  2. you had cancer you survived ergo you are a cancer survivor.
    Some will have worse than you
    Some will have a smaller easier to treat cancer than you
    but you will all share the common thread.

    Keeping everything crossed for your friend and your CIL

  3. It’s cancer. Hearing those words, is a rattling experience. Obviously I don’t “compare” my skin cancer with my friend that has cancer woven throughout her entire chest cavity so badly it is not operable. There is no comparison, yet at the same time those words “it’s cancer” changed my outlook on so many levels. While I am decorating for Christmas, she is celebrating hers, with her teen daughters, early…..just in case.

    I know the day will come when medical science will discover that something simple will halt cancer growth. Something that is readily available. I just wish they would hurry up…..too many wonderful people are suffering. Being a survivor isn’t just making it past a disease, it is a way of living.

  4. I am a cancer survivor…

    It still sounds weird to even say it and I never did until it REALLY affected me…

    I had cervical cancer. Before it was removed, I was terrified. Cervical cancer almost killed my mother- she had a radical hysterectomy (the scar reminded me of what it would look like if you gutted a fish and then sewed it back together), and lives to tell the tale… once I had the surgery I was relieved and quickly moved on to “meh”- I came I saw I went… no big deal. UNTIL I got pregnant. And then the scary reality of incompetent cervix moved in…

    Even for the short time you WERE terrified can be put to use to help someone going through cancer. Just remember how you felt when you DIDN’T know you were going to be ok… and that will be enough.

    Best of luck!

  5. Malignant melanoma is by no means a “pseudo cancer” it’s just one of those cancers that makes it easier to diagnose in the earlier stages because you can see it. The truth is you did have cancer, you were just lucky that it hadn’t spread and you didn’t have more invasive treatment. We have a very close family friend who died of malignant melanoma so no one can convince me that it’s not a real cancer. You’re a survivor, your path was easier and your treatment not as intense as someone’s else’s but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t count.

  6. You have a giant hole in your leg. You are a survivor.

    Maybe, like with infertility, it doesn’t matter if you have the thing they have but that you have the love and willingness to just listen and be there and not offer platitudes or assvice.

    Just letting them know you care and that you are thinking about them. That is what is important.

    …and, lucky you, chicks dig scars.

  7. I have known so many people with cancer I can’t even count any more. I know survivors and those who lost their battle. You have come through this with a battle scar and much more knowledge about all of this than you ever deserved. Even if you don’t, I see you as a survivor and know that if I ever got a diagnosis with the words “malignant” or “cancer” in them I would definitely see you as an example (whether you think it’s deserved or not).

  8. You are a survivor of the shock and fear of the diagnosis, though, and that’s something you might be able to talk about. Fuck. Your blog is snowing. Did you know that makes me feel like I’m seeing things? Anyway, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope his prognosis is good.

  9. I remember very clearly, lying in surgical prep having one last good weep-fest, in vanity over the scar which would deface my neck.
    When I had my recurrence – a lymph node which popped up on the upper part of the L side of my neck, about 3 inches below my ear, my [new] surgeon discussed an elaborate procedure which would involved incising my OLD scar (which is at the base of my throat), & flapping the skin up to avoid creating another scar on my neck! I told him I was well past that, so just cut right over the affected lymph node… They did a second exploratory just to make sure, & I gave specific instructions to be careful of my L spinal accessory nerve – the left’s my reinin’ arm 😉
    He did a great job – no signs of any problems.

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