Am I A Survivor?

I know that the words that we use in the cancer world are important. There are numerous blogs and articles on what to call ourselves once we are diagnosed with lung cancer. Are we patients, survivors, or something else?

Unsure what to call myself

When I was diagnosed, I did not know what to call myself. It was 2014 and I was starting treatment and I was diagnosed with stage 3b lung cancer at a young age. I found so much information on the topic that it was mind-boggling. I tried not to look too much information up on the internet but in the wee hours of the night sometimes it was hard to avoid. According to most, we are all survivors the day we hear the words “it's cancer”.

Thoughts on the word "survivor"

Some people like this but others do not. Since some of us are still in treatment, we are technically still lung cancer patients. But again, words matter, and how we view ourselves can make a huge difference in how we cope with the diagnosis and subsequent treatment if that is the chosen route.

I have seen it all from people hiding the diagnosis and not even claiming to have cancer to those that wear it proudly via the hat or shirt that they have chosen to wear. On a side note, since I have been diagnosed my t-shirt collection has grown but quite a few shirts! I have enough shirts to wear every day for a month.

With other types of cancer, you are not considered a “survivor” until you are done with treatment. This is tricky because some of us will not see that day. I have been on a TKI for 4 years and while there are some people who have stopped taking this drug after ten years, I am not confident that if I reach that milestone that I will do the same.

In contrast, the label of "patient"

The word “patient” can sound extremely negative. You often think of someone who is sick and frail and while that is sometimes the case, cancer care and side effect treatment have come leaps and bounds in even just the last few years. I know that before I was diagnosed if someone told me they had cancer I would not have pictured someone like me. Which feeds into the stigma that we see every day when it comes to lung cancer. Just because we do not look ill does not mean that we are not struggling to cope with the diagnosis. It can be physically and mentally draining.

Our words and labels matter

Words are important. The word “survivor” is a noun, and it means, “a person who continues to function or prosper despite opposition, hardship, or setbacks.” Also, via dictionary.com the word “patient” means, a person who is under medical care or treatment. I can see where we can have some disagreements on what to be called.

Whether you choose to be a lung cancer survivor, or a lung cancer patient is completely up to you. We are all in charge of our own stories and how we are seen by others, especially in this age where everyone shares too much on the internet.

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