I know I should just say no
and leave well enough alone, but the pink ribbons are about to strangle me. Every time I read yet another article on awareness or see more frosted pink cookies in the grocery store (cause that's prevention right there....of what, I have no idea), it reminds me of another topic. It's a word overused and abused in my opinion and I'm going to have my say and be done with it.
I will add the caveat that you can feel free to disagree, however, unless you have been in the *exact* (and I mean EXACT) same scenario, it can be very difficult to understand how another feels. So, the word of the month that I will be thrilled if I never hear again, lest it be in relation to a reality show that I've never watched?
Yep, it's the "S" word: Survivor.
I would like to make one thing abundantly clear: I do not now and never will, tag myself as a survivor of breast cancer. I no more call myself that than I do a survivor of the flu, chicken pox or 5 years of strep throat (seriously...that was brutal). Yet, from the day of my diagnosis, without my permission, doctors, nurses, and the like slapped that word on me faster than you can say #thinkbeforeyoupink.
I called and left a message for someone about an exercise class (called "Pink Ribbon Pilates" no less) and got a return message for the "breast cancer survivor." Except there is one problem: I was never in any danger. I had a lump, I had it removed, I did the radiation (the jury is still out on that one) and that was that. My breasts did not try to strangle me, I did not hover near death during the surgery and I never had any intention of not going back to my old normal.
Yet, from day one I was tagged and labeled. I couldn't escape it anywhere I went. I was supposed to jump up and down about being a survivor. Oh, gee, goody, had part of my chest removed, 3 painful surgeries to replace it, loads of nasty doctors appointments, and I'm supposed to be esctatic that I got through all of that and do a pink ribbon happy dance? I'd rather just not have done it all in the first place. However, many of the doctors and other staff using the term don't seem to think about how they would feel if it affected them. They just stamp it on your forehead and go on their merry way.
As does the media. In fact, I actually found someone to blame for this whole debacle a while back. I won't drag his/her name through the mud, but apparently a few years back, someone decided that the word survivor was appropriate for anyone and everyone. Even though each person's experience is different and some might have a cakewalk compared to the next person.
So, without so much as a "how do you do," I've had the word bandied about like it's a compliment. Well, to me, it's not. It's just another reminder of a few months that I would rather have never experienced. Having to not go to our follow-on post? Forcing my husband to curtail his tour of duty? Losing part of myself and feeling pushed and pulled in so many directions with regard to follow-up? Not something I really want to focus on.
More to the point: I hate labels. HATE them. If we insist as parents that it is a bad idea to label kids, why do we suddenly think adults will appreciate it, especially when it is a reminder of a not-so-stellar time? Well, not all of us do.
I'm not asking anyone to radically change their vocabulary. I'm not asking anyone to give up the label survivor, IF they are okay with that. Some people might well be and that is fine with me, as they may well have endured much, much more and truly feel they have survived something. However, that is not me.
I am Jen...just Jen. I had breast cancer, it's gone and that was that. Now, if you want to label me as a survivor of anything, it's not that....the Foreign Service lifestyle? Maybe...but not breast cancer.