When do I get to call myself a cancer survivor?

This was one thing that confused me about cancer and cancer culture.

And yes, there is such a thing as cancer culture. I missed out on a lot of it by living so far out in the woods, and also by being diagnosed with cancer just months before covid arrived. But cancer culture is a real thing. (Quite often it’s a pink thing, but not always.)

Anyway, this question first popped into my mind a few years back when I was in the oncology waiting room and saw photos from a recent event called the “Cancer Survivors Hoedown.”

Now, I’m generally not into the sort of music and dancing associated with the term “hoedown.” Still, I hoped to someday become an official member of the elite “cancer survivor” club. I didn’t know what the entry requirements were, but sign me up!

I had many questions. How long must I survive before I was officially a “survivor?” What tests or scan results would I need to become certified? What key words or numbers must I hear from my oncologist before it was official?

It was only much later I learned that the only requirement for membership in the “survivor” club is that you not yet be dead. It’s a great example of the positive thinking that’s an integral part of cancer culture. Technically, then, the moment you’re diagnosed is also the moment you become a cancer survivor.

But there’s nothing wrong with a little positive thinking, especially if your cancer is Stage III or IV. Because here’s the thing: If you decide to survive, you might. If you don’t, you won’t.

Although I may have overstated that for dramatic effect, there’s a grain of truth here. Many variables will be beyond your control. This one isn’t. So please decide to survive.

In the future I may blog more what variables are under your control.  I may also blog more about other aspects of cancer culture. But this is enough for today. That’s one thing about being a “cancer survivor.” You may at times experience a slightly reduced attention span. And also… Just plain fatigue.

That’s my blog. By and for the short attention-span cancer survivor. And also for anyone else, no matter what your attention span or energy level. Bye for now. I’ll be back.

Author: alcambronne

Retired photographer, author, and cancer survivor living in northwest Wisconsin.