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Am I A Survivor?

by Sandy Greenberg

I love these discussions over cancer semantics - words are SO loaded!

Like other "metsters" with advanced cancer, I don't like the "survivorship" campaigns that purposely or subliminally leave out patients like us, with metastatic disease - it's like cancer = the Titanic, sinking, and the primary cancer patients are on the lifeboats, and we, with metastatic disease, are left onboard, to drown.

On the other hand, I DO feel like a survivor, albeit one of the walking wounded - like the soldiers returning from Iraq with PTSD, amputated limbs, CNS injuries caused from IEDs. They survived their tours of duty in Iraq, but that doesn't mean they came out unscathed, or that their lives won't be foreshortened by the physical & emotional injuries they sustained there. Did they die in Iraq, like the over 4000 confirmed U.S. casualties? No - so they survived.

So - we, too - walking and talking and bitching and frightened - ARE survivors, as I understand the word to mean generically. We're just not the lucky primary cancer patients who often get to walk away from what they survived, rather than carry it with them to the grave. I compare it to Holocaust survivors of the Nazi death camps - while they were interned. Our comrades have died, and continue to die, in large numbers - we feel close in line behind them sometimes. But we are, for now, living, breathing, writing, reading witnesses to the state of the art of medical care for advanced cancer in our time - as flawed, and limited, as it is, it is keeping many of us alive, many of us with sort of remarkable day-to-day freedom to work, play, enjoy, kvetch, give, take, and carpe diem!

Sandy Greenberg has raised three daughters and now lives with her soulmate and husband in Northern California. A former adoption social worker, she enjoys travel, crafts, socializing, as well as the gorgeous climate and access to wonderful cultural and geographical diversity in this area. Now living with metastatic disease for five and a half years, Sandy is very grateful her health care providers, and her support groups (one local, weekly and the other online at bcmets.org).