Apparently yesterday was "Cancer Survivors Day" and for anyone who marked it, enjoyed it or celebrated it, well done.
I didn't. I wouldn't.
I didn't because I was unaware of it, and wouldn't because, though totally well-meant, the word "survivor" does not work for me.
If those of us still here are "survivors" what does that make those who are not?
What does it say about Joy, Margaret, Rose, Paul, Anthony, John, Claire, Rachel, Gillian, Jan, Freda, Kate, Lil, Anne, Lulu, Laura, Caroline, Jean, June, Lynn, Sheila (all real first names)... and the countless, countless others I've known personally who died from cancer?
Are they losers? Did they somehow fail?
Of course not. These names date back to the late 1970s, some of them were diagnosed so late on they didn't stand a chance; some of them underwent all sorts of horrible treatments with courage, positivity and humour, but they could not beat, defeat or 'survive' cancer.
In a couple of months time I will reach the fifth anniversary of my diagnosis. I did not expect to be here to reach this milestone, or if I did reach it, did not expect to be disease free, as my starting point wasn't exactly brilliant. But here I am, keeping well, basically healthy, and living life.
This is part of my problem - cancer is a collection of cruel, unpredictable diseases that doesn't read the text books. You can start with a lousy prognosis and be fine, or a great prognosis and it gets you anyway. You can obey the rules to the letter and get cancer, or you can live a life or riley and get off scot free. So 'survivor' is a bit of a naff term, in my view. Sure, my choices can help or hinder my long term health - and I prefer to think I've done all I can (within reason) to keep it kicked into touch - but no one told cancer the rules!
Is there a better word? Is there a word that allows those who are fortunate enough to be cured or in remission or NED to affirm that without, unintentionally insulting or denying those who are Stage 4, or terminal or who have died? I'm not sure there is.
As for me, I think the phrase "still NED as far as I know" is as good as it gets... NED - no evidence of disease, a phrase that acknowledges the possibility that cancer will, or even has already, come back but isn't yet showing its ugly head. A phrase that is inherently humble, provisional, honest... this, for me, is what is needed.
Some readers may define themselves as Survivors; others will be living with, or supporting loved ones with, primary cancer, and some with secondary cancer... whatever language is right for you is right for you.
Me, I'll be a grateful, humble NED whose life is richer for knowing those who were not as lucky.