Being a scholar of words, one that particularly bothers me is the assignment of ‘survivor’ for those who have battled cancer. For me, survivor is not the correct term for those of us who have fought against the guys in the white van. If society is going to use language such as, “fighting a battle against cancer,” or “she, unfortunately, lost her battle with cancer,” then call us warriors. We are in no way passive ‘survivors.’
Perhaps it is the specter of the Holocaust that leads me to dislike the term ‘survivor’ for cancer warriors. Think about the photos of Holocaust survivors etched into your mind– while many of them do look similar to cancer warriors entrenched in battle, there are inherent differences. Holocaust survivors went through a much different experience than cancer warriors. For me, survivor is passive– those poor folk who were not partisans had to follow horrible orders and direction from Nazis. Cancer warriors have many options available to them. Cancer warriors have much more freedom than the term ‘survivor’ offers. Warriors are active, seeking out out cancer and facing it head on.
Because I don’t intend to just survivor cancer, I intend to defeat it. Warriors take no prisoners, Warriors will go the distance to face an enemy. Warriors go into battle with G-d watching over them. Warriors love their family, their country, and their Creator. Warriors don’t leave their comrades on the battlefield–they pick them up and carry them to safety, and provide comfort when a comrade is suffering. Warriors know the difference between a Holy War and a personal grudge, and the appropriate response to both. But more than anything, Warriors know they go into battle with a strong sense of self, knowing that they can kick cancer’s ass. Be afraid cancer–very afraid!