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Sunday, June 1, 2014

On surviving

It's National Cancer Survivors Day, and I feel weird about it. I feel weird about the words.

The word survivor, and implicit glorification of those given the title, is difficult for me. Surviving conjures up ideas of triumph, winning. A winner necessitates a loser. So what does that make of those who don't survive -- the 40,000 women who die of breast cancer annually in the US. Have they lost? Surviving doesn't feel so good when it's turned into a winner/loser dichotomy.

It's also false. Me living doesn't actually depend on another person dying. And me living doesn't mean I've earned it, won it. It doesn't mean I deserve it more than anyone else.

There's also the thing about the battle, the fight. Someone survives their fight with cancer, or loses a long battle.

It never felt like that to me. I wasn't fighting. I wanted to stay alive more than anything else in world, but I was being obedient, listening to the advice of my doctors. Taking the prescribed things, submitting to scalpels and needles, making my way slowly and stiffly forward. Because there was nothing else to do. Time marches on, and the living go with it.

Sometimes I wonder What would fighting have looked like? What does it mean to me? I instantly imagine a Komen-ified version of Xena Warrior Princess. A one breasted fuchsia-haired amazon, pink crystal sword slicing through malignancies.

We are all of us and none of us survivors. Surviving is temporary. Because life is.

That old line about how no one makes it out of life alive runs through my head on an almost daily basis.

"This is temporary," was a mantra that got me through the pain, the sadness. Through the hardest no hair days and the longest sleepless nights. May they be my words for life, in good times and bad.

To any who have walked this same road, and those who will the future, I stand with you because we existed somewhere out there together. Maybe we hitched the same stretch of highway, maybe we both squatted in the same bushes. Maybe you left a cairn for me, or I for you. Maybe we both clasped at the same stars, and were bitten by the same snake.

May I be able to be able both to treasure, and to endure.


  1. yes yes yes. I just shared this on my FB wall. I didn't post anything yesterday, wasn't even online much because I was so uncomfortable the whole day. Thank you for getting the words out of my brain!