I’ve never been a badass. I’m probably the least intimidating person I know, except for when I’m “hangry,” but does facing cancer make me a badass?
I certainly don’t feel like a “survivor.” That word congers up an image of being rescued on a lonely deserted island with hairy legs and a hankering for a hot shower and indoor plumbing.
Even though I wear tights daily, “superhero” also doesn’t fit the bill. I don’t have any supernatural powers such as the ability to throw lightning bolts at my enemies or teleport, although I’ve always thought teleportation would be super handy at rush hour. Perhaps the superpowers will be what’s called a late effect from treatment, something that doesn’t show up until weeks or even years after treatment ends. I’ve had 34 rounds of radiation, and lots of scans, but the only late effects from radiation I’ve felt so far is increased brain fog, which sometimes feels like trying to drive in traffic with a coffee in your hand while your kid is screaming in the backseat. Oh wait. That’s just parenting.
“Warrior” is another term used to describe someone like me, but when I think of warriors, people like Joan of Arc come to mind. She really got shit done.
The words that we use to describe people facing cancer are weirdly related to combat.
You’re a fighter. You’re brave. You’re courageous. You’ll beat this. You’re tough. Just stay strong. He won his fight with cancer. She lost her battle with cancer.
The side effects of treatment can be gruelling at times. To keep with the combat theme, at times it did feel like torture. For some, the physical pain doesn’t go away. Emotional wounds can be especially hard to heal.
But when you actually go through treatment, you don’t feel like a fighter, or at least I didn’t. There’s actually a lot of waiting. Biding your time in the waiting room to see your oncologist. Laying really still for a scan. Sitting there while chemo drips into your body. Taking it easy while radiation zaps through you. Resting to recover from treatment. You feel like a person who is just showing up because if you don’t, they say you will die. Even if you show up, you may still die. It doesn’t feel like a real choice.
I’m a fighter because I showed up? Is that like getting an award just for participating?
Courageous is a word that I would use to describe a zillion other people like emergency responders who literally run into a burning building to save someone who they’ve never met or people who stand up to bullies.
I’m not saying to NOT use those words. It’s just that someone with cancer may not identify with being depicted that way, except for maybe badass. If I can’t be a badass in other aspects of my life, at least I’m a badass to cancer.