Definition of a Survivor

For cancer patients, the word survivor can bring up a range of reactions and emotions. Some claim the word proudly as a badge of honor that they’ve earned through treatments and experiences with their disease. Some find the word survivor to be a little uncomfortable and without a concrete definition. Others prefer another word, like warrior or champion, instead of survivor. Definitions aside, due to better diagnostic tools and effective treatments, there are more than 12 million people living cancer survivors in the United States. Below are some ways that survivorship can be defined.

Survivor Means First Day of Diagnosis

For some, the moment they are diagnosed with cancer they become survivors. Hearing a cancer diagnosis from a doctor can be a life changing moment for people. But getting past that first difficult day and into fighting your disease is surviving. Facing cancer treatment is a daunting task, so identifying yourself as a survivor from day 1 will help you go through your treatments and disease with a positive outlook and a winner’s attitude. Instead of counting down days to remission, you can count up the days you’ve been surviving.

“Being a survivor is a state of mind. It means that I am not going to give up and I am going to fight.” –Dr. Travis Kidner, surgical oncologist and malignant melanoma survivor.

“To me, if you're living and breathing, you are a survivor. I'd even venture to call myself a "thriver," as I am loving and relishing life more than ever before. My goal is to do much more than simply survive.” –Tami Boehmer, author of “From Incurable to Incredible” and breast cancer survivor.

Survivor Means When You’re in Remission

For many, the day that you walk out of the hospital with doctors, nurses, and treatments behind you is when you begin your survivorship. While cancer has forever altered your life, you can start the journey of living life with your new normal. Post-treatment life can bring a new appreciation for life and a more comfortable life without treatments and their side effects.

Survivor Means When Cancer Doesn’t Define You

For breast cancer survivor Kathleen Hammett, she felt like a survivor when she woke up in the morning and didn’t think about cancer. Depending on where you are in your treatment, it may be hard to imagine a moment when you’re not thinking about cancer, but there will come a time where you no longer feel defined by your disease. Coming to terms with what happened to you means that you’ll have overcome cancer both physically and psychologically, making you a survivor.

“It may float through your head but your focus is on LIVING your life not navigating medical appointments and side effects, or on the dreaded recurrence.” -Kathleen Hammett, blogger and survivor.

What is your definition of "survivor"? Do you identify with survivorship or do you prefer another term? Join the conversation with our online community to share.