Monday, November 26, 2012

By Any Other Name, Would it Sound as Sweet?

The tweet above is from my new friend and fellow melanoma warrior, Chelsea Price, check out her AWESOME blog here.  This made me think of a post I wrote a few weeks before I started this blog. I suppose you could call it my “practice” stage, but clearly, this entire process has been nothing but practice.  Here is a portion of that never to be seen post.

I was referred to as a “survivor” today. It was done by a friend, who was truly happy for me and proud to give me that title, but it is one I am having difficulty embracing.  As a matter of fact, I may even fear it a bit. You see, to me, a survivor is someone who comes away from a plane crash  alive.  Someone who is a hostage in a bank robbery, but walks out unharmed. A survivor has very little chance of the same life threatening situation occurring again.
To me, saying that I survived melanoma, is like saying I defeated an evil queen, who is now dead and can never return. It is to not acknowledge how awful this disease is. It can come back. It does come back, for many people. Sometimes inside of them, where they can’t see and don’t notice until it is too far along. So I don’t feel like a survivor, because each day I worry about it returning. I feel weak in comparison to the UV rays that I am exposed to while outside, when driving, when walking near a window in my house. I bounce back and forth between obsessing over sun protection and checking my body for moles and lumps to trying to block out as many thoughts as possible, just in order to live a “normal” life again. The life I lived before this disease.

 I am not a superstitious person. I don’t mind walking under ladders. I won’t freak out if I see someone opening an umbrella inside. I even owned and loved a completely black cat for a few years.  I have friends who have told me that it’s bad luck to put a hat on a bed or to walk around a table more than once. I don’t have a problem doing any of those things either.   I do, however, have an issue with being “jinxed” or with someone “putting the mouth on me.”  That was a common term from my upbringing.  If something was wished on someone else around me, and it ended up happening to me- they put the mouth on me.  If someone said, “Everything is going to be ok, “ and then it wasn’t- that person put the mouth on me.

I am going to give you one, particularly personal and embarrassing situation of when I am certain this happened to me.  

My mom, like any mom, would get terribly frustrated whenever anyone treated any of her children wrong. When this occurred, she was always very vocal about how frustrated she was. Then she would end her barrage of insults with, “I hope her butt itches.” Yep. You read that right. She didn’t wish them dead. She didn’t wish they got hurt. She is definitely not an evil person, but she did very much wish that these people would have a constant itch in their behind so they were pretty much uncomfortable for the rest of their lives. I would always laugh at first ( I mean how can you not?), and then tell her how awful it was and that it was going to come back on her if she kept saying that. Boy, was I wrong. In my early 20’s I got a tiny mole on my bottom, that mole itched like crazy!  I went to a dermatologist to have it removed as soon as possible. So basically, I was the one who ended up with an itchy butt. Thankfully, it was short lived.

Yes, my own mother put the mouth on me.

So calling myself a survivor scares me. When I see t-shirts like, I Kicked Cancer’s Ass, or Melanoma Survivor shirts, I am too afraid to wear them, because what if I am proven wrong?  What if, by calling myself a cancer surviving ass kicker, I am putting the mouth on myself?
 Cool Melanoma Survivor T-shirts

As I mentioned above, when I think of the word survivor I think  someone who-
Survived a train crash
Survived being struck by lightening
Survived getting shot

These are all incidents that MOST likely WON’T occur again.  So these people can safely claim “survivorship”

But what about someone who is going out to face the same circumstances EVERY day? Like a soldier, whose likelihood of engaging in battle is always high? Do we call them survivors or something different- like warriors, fighters, troopers, contenders, battlers, attackers, challengers?

Now, I want to be clear on this- I am not making judgments about other people who proudly call themselves survivors.  They DESERVE it!

Many people have fought much harder and much longer than I have at this point. I certainly think they deserve to call themselves whatever they want. I am just stating my personal issues with being able to call myself a survivor. I really want that to change. 

I am working on it. My new vision of a survivor is  someone who walks away from a life threatening event and continues on with life, no matter how difficult it may be, or someone right in the middle of this awful disease and surviving each and every second, turning into minutes, days, months, and years.  I've met a lot of those people in the last 5 months. Survivors, who I can now also call friends. So maybe I agree with my friend Chelsea. I know I would buy any of my new friends "Survivor" shirts.  Maybe one day, I will be able to proudly wear my own. Until then, I know one thing for sure. 

We are all fighters!!

What are your thoughts on being a "survivor" or a "warrior"? I would love to hear.

Thank you for reading. Until next time, practice safe sun. 

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