When we were planning the Survivor/Caregiver Celebration for the Relay for Life in our county, someone asked, "Well, who qualifies as a survivor?" My response was that the moment you are told "you have cancer," you are a survivor.
I am surviving every day. I am living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer with multiple bone involvement. I have been living with it since January, 2005, though I know I was a survivor long before that. Originally diagnosed in 1989 with Stage I breast cancer, I survived that. I survived growing up in the 60's, having very conservative parents (Archie Bunker was my father), wardrobes with mini skirts, (why did designers think the backs of women's knees were pretty?) college counselors who said women should be teachers, nurses or secretaries, etc., etc., etc.
I have now survived divorce, remarriage, being a preacher's wife (be careful what you pray for),divorce, birth of a child, religious discrimination, sexual harassment (more times than I can recall), and unemployment.
I have survived being deemed a no longer valuable Human Resources Director because of my cancer diagnosis, being discriminated against for re-employment because of my cancer diagnosis.
I have survived 85 radiation treatments (I finally got those tattoos I always wanted), my fourth trial of chemotherapy, my hair falling out (all my hair!), CT scans and that awful prep, bone scans and PET scans and MRI's and even another mammogram in the mix even though I really do not have a natural breast anymore.
I have survived nearly all the side effects one can get and even got one very rare one that no one knew how to treat. I have survived having to educate my doctors and nurses, most of whom have never walked the walk I am taking along this long road.
I am a survivor. I recall the things that got me through all the above, and marvel at what I have learned through all of life's lessons. I draw on them to gather the strength, courage, hope and faith to keep me surviving no matter what comes my way.
I am a survivor and I bet you are too!
Deborah was Co-Chair for Carteret County Relay for Life 2008 for ACS which raised over $300,000. A Human Resources Manager for 20 years, Deborah went back to college after first diagnosis of breast cancer and graduated with honors from Wheeling Jesuit University. Now retired under disability, she lives in North Carolina with her 92 year-old mother, two cats and a new puppy who is going through therapy dog certification training. She still plays golf and has a long bucket list, to which she keeps adding. She recently went to Paris with her daughter, Amanda, to "make memories" and is currently working on a book about "Living With It."