How I Really Feel About The Word “Survivor”

Survivorship… what a loaded word. Every time I think I understand what it truly means, I manage to get flipped on my head and feel like I have to start processing it all over again. I remember being diagnosed and thinking it would just be one long year of treatment, and then I’d be calling myself a survivor.

The truth is – I truly and deeply dislike the word survivor. I also don’t particularly love the words thriver or warrior either, so where does that leave me? I’m still working on understanding this piece of my identity. Some people really identify with these words, and that’s great, but I suppose I’m still figuring that out.

When I was switched from Herceptin/Perjeta to Kadcyla in January, it felt like the end of active treatment would never come. I had expected to be done by May 17, 2019, but the switch in medication meant I was facing a possible extra 7 or so infusions, which meant I wouldn’t be done until October. However, just a few days ago, my oncologist and I made the decision that infusion #19 would be my last, and that meant that as of May 29th, I had received my last infusion, and have reached the end of “active treatment”. Today is the first Wednesday/Thursday in almost 400 days that I haven’t had my every 3 week check-in and infusion at the cancer center, and I am working hard to process that.

I’ll still go to the cancer center every 4 weeks for an injection to suppress my ovaries, and I still take medication every day to halt estrogen production in my body (literally medical menopause – joy).

But can you see how that makes the word “survivor” so tricky? It never really feels done. At least to me, to survive means to have made it through something and come out the other side. I guess I’m just not sure where exactly that other side is.

Survivorship is full of so many things – relief, confusion, fear, anxiety. Just thinking of the word “survivorship” sounds like it should be something pleasant, or something to celebrate, but I’m not sure I’ve found that yet. Right now, it’s still loaded with emotions.

So I’ll be here – processing that I’ve reached the end of active treatment, and figuring out where I go from here. I’ll try to show gratitude that I am done with the most intensive of treatments that I will hopefully ever need, and I’ll try to look forward to whatever life brings next. I’ll also be thinking of my metastatic breast cancer sisters – they don’t get the feeling of being “done” with active treatment, and that makes me so mad. Cancer is just… rude. If you ever donate to breast cancer research – donate to someone that commits to researching treatments for metastatic breast cancer.

How do you guys feel about survivorship? I’m so curious to know if you felt good, or if you felt totally shell-shocked (or something else for that matter)! I’m sure this won’t be my last post on survivorship – I foresee a #SurvivorshipSeries coming as my life and perspective changes.

Always happy to chat in the comments, or over on Instagram @affirmationsfromcancer!

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