From time to time I think about the words we use to talk about people who have cancer, especially metastatic cancer. There are several posts about this on my old site. One of my favorites is called Chronically Terminal Rumination. In that post, I wrote:
My problem with the terminology can be summed up like this:
I am not a survivor. I haven’t died of cancer, but there are secondary tumors at various places in my body. Active cancer.
I am not terminally ill. That is, I am terminally ill, but not in the sense of qualifying for hospice at this point.
I am chronically ill, but not in the sense of someone who has schizophrenia or diabetes or hypertension, in that I will eventually die of this chronic illness…
Last month was the tenth anniversary of my mastectomy and in a few days I’ll have a birthday. Sitting between those two anniversaries is making me a bit pensive. This has not been the worst decade of my life, but it is sure a long way from having been the best.
I am now sicker than I was at the beginning, save the chemo. I certainly have more pain, more fatigue. The fact that I am far more likely to die from this disease than with it is becoming more and more evident to me, more and more real.
So that leaves me with a choice, the choice of my attitude. I talked about this at length in an old post, Have I survived yet? Part II (This one is also still on my old site because I haven’t migrated it yet.) I wrote that in October 2011, so it seems that my thinking on the subject hasn’t evolved in the past couple of years.
I choose my attitude over and over again. My usual course of action is to notice what I’m feeling, what is happening in my inner world, and consider it for a time. I want to see what I can learn from it. I want to evaluate it to see if I’m dramatizing or being over sensitive. I want to assess my behavior to see if I am blaming outside factors for something that is entirely in my control.
Having done all that, I choose to get on about the business of living. This is something I’ve been doing for many years now, and I’m becoming more adept at it. The key, I find, is not to deny my feelings, not to falsify a situation to myself or to others, to accept things knowing that that “acceptance” is not the same as “approval”.
All that notwithstanding, and without denying the fact that I am a fundamentally happy person, I still sometimes wish that I were a breast cancer survivor. But a wish is just a feeling and feelings are not the boss of me, so I don’t have to do anything other than know that it’s there. It does not have the power to take away my peace.