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Readers Respond: How I Define a Breast Cancer Survivor?

Responses: 45

By

Updated September 14, 2009

When did you first say "I am a breast cancer survivor?" Did your doctor, friends, or family influence when you started saying you were a breast cancer survivor? Is it: at diagnosis, after surgery, at the end of treatment, when you pass your 5-year checkup, or whenever you say you are a survivor? Weigh in on when you can say you are a breast cancer survivor.

Every Day of Life

I was a survivor: before I knew I had breast cancer. Every day I have lived with/in spite of breast cancer: "I'm a survivor." I'm not dead yet.. therefore I'm a survivor.
—Guest Ann

I AM a survivor

I was diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer, stage 2a, in March of 2009. I had a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. My oncologist told me that I was a survivor the day I had my surgery and the tumor, along with lymph nodes were removed. Everything else was to ensure that the cancer didn't return. The tumor was estrogen/progesterone and HER 2 positive. So I had Herceptin for a year and will be taking Arimidex for five years. I feel fortunate to be alive and appreciate every day!
—littlegrandma6

We are all survivors, in a sense

I was diagnosed with a stage 2, very aggressive, breast cancer in February of 2012, a few days after my 45th birthday. It was a huge shock, but I have a very supportive husband. After we cried, we decided we'd do whatever we needed to do to in order to overcome this trial. Our faith is strong and I have already had my mastectomy. Chemo comes next. The road will be long but knowing I am joined by so many other strong women is so encouraging! Thank you all for your encouragement! !!!
—Guest Jennifer rakestraw

I have survived much!

I was diagnosed with stage 1 in April/2011. I survived the shock of the diagnosis. I survived a biopsy, a sentinel node biopsy, surgery, chemotherapy, hair loss, and 6 weeks of radiation. I survived chemo fog, nausea, skin changes and life changes. There is no doubt that I am a survivor. Now I feel good, my hair has come back, and my skin is clear again. I look at myself in the mirror and acknowledge "I have survived".
—Dianapetkau

Survivor/Warrior

i was diagnosed march 4th, 2011 with stage 3 invasive duct. breast cancer. (triple negative to boot) Chemo, surgery and double mastectomy. I started surviving about a week after my diagnosis and while the term survivor is great, I feel I become a warrior. My doctors tell me I went to war and have won, so I adopted that attitude. Staying positive and always looking for the up side. got me thru. Anyone with any stage of breast cancer is facing a whirlwind of information, treatments, and periods of self pity. But coming out on the other side-Ladies, you have been to war! and you survived, you are all warriors!
—Guest lavon

Call me a Joyful, but not a survivor!

I WAS NEVER COMFORTABLE CALLING MYSELF A SURVIVOR WHEN ALL I DID WAS FOLLOW THE DOCTOR'S ORDERS AND GET THE TUMOR CUT OUT OF ME. IT WAS A HARROWING EXPERIENCE HAVING MY BREAST LUMPED OFF, AND ALL THE TREATMENT AFTERWARD. PRACTICALLY NOBODY DIES FROM THE MASTECTOMY....OR EVEN IN THE FIRST YEAR OR TWO AFTER THEY ARE DIAGNOSED. I JUST THINK IT'S DUMB TO CALL SOMEONE A SURVIVOR WHEN THEY ARE BARELY OUT OF TREATMENT. YOU DON'T DIE FROM THE ORIGINAL TUMOR. TREATMENT IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG...THE UNDERWORLD JUST BELOW THE SURFACE IS DEEP AND TREACHEROUS. FOR MANY THE WORST IS YET TO COME. THERE IS A SECRET BEAUTY THAT WE SHARE. I WOULD CALL IT MY JOY OF LIFE. EVERY DAY IS A MIRACLE. I HAVE NOT TAKEN ONE SINGLE DAY FOR GRANTED SINCE MY DIAGNOSIS. You can call it what you want, but in my life there is NO SUCH THING AS A SURVIVOR because there is still no cure!
—suzioli

New Survivor

Just found out today...my husband was in tears and I was telling him we are going to be okay. He remarked how strong I was being. I haven't started treatment or has surgery but I am already a survivor because I got through the darkest hour...finding out...now time to kick butt!!!
—Guest Dana

After 5 years, maybe

After 5 years . I Had breast cancer for the second time when my 5 year deadline approached . I can't feel secure for another 5 years. It feels never ending at the moment as I still have another 4 years to go. I feel that anything could happen in that time .
—Guest alison critchlow

When you can smile again

After mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and then a reconstruction - when you can smile and enjoy your life - that's when you know you have survived the horrible journey
—Guest Carol

At Diagnosis!

Right after the diagnosis - if you decide to fight it with all your (and modern science) might and don't give it a chance to have you.
—Irena47

Do An Attitude Check

After the initial shock, I allowed myself a few days to have a pity party. Then I put my big girl panties on and said okay I have breast cancer but breast cancer doesn't have me. It's only been two months since my diagnosis my surgery is next week but I know I will be healthier in mind, body and soul once this "experience" is over.
—Guest Kim

The Will to Go On

I was diagnosed on July 5, 2010 with stage 2B breast cancer. I knew that I would be OK, but it wasn't until my husband had a heart attack and suffered a stroke during surgery on Sept. 9, 2010 that I really knew I would be a survivor. After all, who would take care of him and be there to hold my college daughter's hand through all of this. Women are strong, even during the frailest, sickest moments of the journey I knew I would win.
—Guest Anna

Thanks, I needed THAT!

After being through the ringer like the rest of our "club", I've constantly asked the medical team since day 1..... "when can I say I'm a survivor". That was always my goal, TO SURVIVE without question, I knew I would. And yet after year two since the removal of the cancer in my breast I still sequestered my oncologists opinion, "may I now call myself a survivor now"? She said "no, not yet as we are much more conservative about that". Yikes! My husband joked as he was driving me home from the appointment that I in fact was a true survivor having stayed married to him.... he meant well. So, thank you for your words and sharing the words of others, I needed THAT!
—Guest Karen in Bergen

Too New to Know

I was diagnosed on January 19th 2011 with stage one invasive ductal carcinoma. The day I received the news the nurse gave me a bag from the Cancer Foundation that said "I am a survivor" I thought to myself that I will have to earn that. Unfortunately, the first person I told outside of the family told me it was ONLY stage one, they would just take it out and I would have a little radiation and I would just get on with my life. I was so shocked that someone could be so insensitive. I have since learned that so many people are so ignorant to what the words YOU HAVE CANCER feels like. Unfortunately I have not socialized or been with any friends since the diagnosis. I thought to myself I will never use that phase because I ONLY had stage one - and some how that does not entitle me to use that term. Thank you all so much for helping me understand that when you have cancer the word ONLY should never be used. I am a survivor!
—grammi98

When You Finish Treatment

I think as soon as your treatment has finished, you are then on your own surviving this big wide world, so therefore that's when I classified myself as a survivor.
—Guest ELAINE
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