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Defining "Survivor"

By Kayla Giacin
Friday, March 9, 2012

Describing oneself as a survivor of a brain tumor or brain cancer as a definition is not clear cut and has been a topic of debate in the cancer community.  Although the term “survivor” is generally recognized as someone who is living with their disease from their date of diagnosis, perceiving oneself as a survivor of a serious illness can be a different story when dealing with treatments and sicknesses that make you feel less than adequate in comparison to people around you.  You might feel as if “survivor” is not an appropriate term for you if you’re in the middle of treatments.  Feelings about survivorship can even change if you’re having an exceptionally bad day.

I, for one, had never even heard of or used the term “survivor” until I was 18 years old and I began volunteering with organizations that served survivors and their families, even though I was 8 when I was diagnosed.  It wasn’t that I DIDN’T think of myself as a survivor but I didn’t realize the impact that having a brain tumor had on my life and didn’t realize how it had made me stronger and more powerful in my life.  Volunteering empowered me to use experiences from my life to help others and I suddenly felt as if I earned the title of “survivor”.

Like I said earlier, coming to terms with word “survivor” can have many different meanings for many different people and I don’t think that it necessarily has to indicate something such as a complete recovery or physical strength.  Being a survivor could mean that you have grown to appreciate life more than you might have before.  It could mean that although you might have difficulty achieving certain goals because of obstacles you face, you strive harder than the average person to achieve them.  It could mean that although you battle a lot of the negative things that a diagnosed person faces, you work yourself through them every time.

Most importantly, I think that the definition of survivor can only be defined by you!  Did you become a survivor the day you were diagnosed or the day you began treatments?  Was it even later in your brain tumor journey? Are you still trying to define this term for yourself?  No one can decide this for you.  As personal and individual as one’s journey with a brain tumor is, is also the definition of it that you create. 

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