Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Identifying as a Survivor

Deciding whether or not to openly identify as a "cancer fighter" or "survivor" is a really big decision. Especially after treatment when the effects of treatment may not be so visible. It is a big decision and not matter what you decide to do, whatever is right for you is right. It is an intensely personal decision.

For me, it took me a long time to "take my battle public". When I had cancer, one of the last things I wanted to was discuss with people my illness. Furthermore, when I was done treatment I just wanted to run away from it as fast as I could.

I began to think about if I would a few months after I finished treatment. I had my hair back, the radiation burns had healed, and I was feeling a bit better. I thought a lot about what people would think if I "let the world know" what I had been through, and what effects I am still having.

I was scared what people would think about me, and to face my fears head on. Cancer had hurt me and I wasn't ashamed but maybe felt a little embarrassed. Discussing past symptoms was easier than expected. Although many of them were extremely painful, and things I didn't necessarily want to discuss or even think about again, I found the feedback to be very positive. The more I talked about what I went through, the more I found both survivors and fighters who found it helpful that they were not alone.

When discussing my current ongoing issues, I found that more difficult. No one wants to be viewed as damaged or broken. It is a big fear. But at the same time, it is my life. I am not ashamed of who I am. I work as hard as I can. I have with this as well the feedback to be amazing. To hear for myself that I am not alone, and giving support to others has really been a great experience.

For me, this has what has been the most important part of identifying as a survivor. not everyone wants to do that, and as I stated before, whatever decision someone makes to identify or not is their decision and whatever they decide is right. I just know for me, and the positive impact I have had, I will continue to identify and speak my voice about my experiences. It is not just for me, but for everyone else out there too to have a bit more of a voice.

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