How do you define surviving cancer?

The cancer patient who goes through treatment and comes out the other side with clean scans and the words NED  stamped on a medical chart, does that make them a cancer survivor?  

We’d like to think so.  But I don’t think it’s that easy.  So many cancer victims I know, still struggle with the left-overs of cancer, even when their scans are clear.  Lingering effects of chemo still make them foggy, radiation has left behind fatigue and sometimes other organs have been damaged in the process. 

The cancer goes away….it just disappears.  It could be gone for many, many years or it could come back in a matter of a few months.  Who knows where it hides.  I always thought how strange it was, that cancer could light-up a pet scan like a neon bulb and then, poof, vanish into the body’s deep caves without a trace. 

 And while it hides, the ‘survivor’ goes back to living as normal a life as possible.  Even friends, who kept a close watch during treatment, tend to fall away, because the cancer patient is now a cancer survivor.  Time to get back to normal.

I guess I struggle with the word “survivor.” I’m not sure I have a word that fits any better.  I do know, I respect and applaud any one who has gone through this test, that’s for sure.  We just have to find a better word than ‘survivor.’

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