I was scrounging around for a blog topic today, when VOILA! one was provided for me by a random series of morning events that ended up with me watching 1 1/2 minutes of some early morning news-type show. The commentator began the bit by describing a woman who carries a gene that makes her more likely to get breast cancer than the normal woman. The show then switched to interviewing the woman herself who said the following "I haven't had breast cancer yet. That makes me a cancer survivor."
No, it doesn't.
As a woman who's both battled cancer and who's been told she's three times more likely to develop breast cancer than the average woman, I have to say something to this. I don't intend to be nitpicky here. I understand the weight of carrying around a doctor's prediction that of all the people standing in a field of land mines, you're more likely to get your head blown off. That's a heavy weight to carry and it means proactively preventing and being smart about how you safeguard (and check up on) your health.
But it doesn't make you a cancer survivor. Not until you've heard those three awful, life-changing words "You have cancer," not until you've looked in the mirror and tried to wrap your head around the fact that your body has turned against you, not until you gaze at your children and worry you won't be here for Christmas, not until you've had surgery, and then another, and some chemo, and then some more, not until you've lost weight, lost hair, lost perspective on anything that doesn't directly help you fight the monster invading your body can you possibly say you're a cancer survivor.