Butterfly Anna
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Am I a Survivor or Fighter

Butterfly Anna
Posted by
01 Jun 2017

This is about my feelings on whether to class myself as a Blood Cancer Survivor or Fighter!

Am I survivor or a fighter... or am I both?

So this is something I have given a lot of thought to and since writing this post I've realised that, after everything I've been through, I am a 'Fusion of a Fighter and Survivor'.

In the cancer community some class themselves as survivors and some as fighters so this is something I have been contemplating lately.  When I started to break down my thoughts and feelings after writing a bio for a social media platform I found myself relating to both.  This may seem trivial but an interesting subject to explore.  Once I started to develop this post I actually found that it is not as black and white as I'd thought.  Especially before I was diagnosed, I just assumed you were one or the other...I believe this subject is applicable to anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis or suffered any other traumatic life changing event.

Firstly I looked up the dictionary definition both words;

Survivor - a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship or setbacks. 

Fighter -  a person who has determination, and courage, a person who fights for example cancer or is a boxer.

I can certainly relate to both...

My Experience

So yes I'm in remission and I have survived the brutal chemotherapy which in itself can be life threatening so I am a survivor, right?

While my body was fighting the Leukaemia my mind wasn't contemplating the enormity of it all. Mentally I was purely focused on getting through each seemingly unending and grim day. I've since come to the conclusion that my mind was protecting me from the devastating reality of my disease, not something I did intentionally but it meant that I tolerated all of the setbacks and alarming moments along the way.  It's only since finishing treatment that everything has taken its toll.  The mind is a very complex thing and survival instinct is something you don't even know you have until you are thrown into a life or death situation. At this point I was a fighter, fighting to live, a very basic thing.  I hadn't yet reached the point where I could class myself as a survivor, not until my treatment had finished at least.

Once my treatment had finished I very much felt like a survivor and with that came a feeling of euphoria, strength and pride, part of a 'club' I was more than happy to be a member of. I very much felt that my fight was over and that my life would be like it used to be however, as more time has passed it's dawned on me that I am still fighting...emotionally, physically and psychologically.  Even if I was cured I'd still be fighting the after effects of the whole devastating experience.  I really had no idea I would feel like this back when I was first home from the hospital.

There are periods of time when I am fairly at peace with my new life, feeling empowered because of what I have achieved then suddenly something will spark off a flash back and from that a downward spiral of negative thoughts flood in so I have to fight back to acceptance again.  That acceptance being that I even had cancer in the first place, that cancer belongs to me now, that it did happen to me and that cancer will forever be part of me.

It is certainly a battle trying to get across that you are still very much recovering when on the outside you look ok.  Often I feel like I don't belong anymore, when conversations leave me feeling totally alone, misunderstood or when friends chat about the future and all I can think is 'I don't even know if I will be here in 5 years time'.  These are friends I still have so much in common with apart from this great big black cloud that follows me around so I am regularly fighting to keep my emotions under control.

Yet the survivor part of me means I am driven to do what I can, help in any way I can which has lead to becoming an Ambassador for the blood cancer charity Bloodwise.  My husband and I have done lots of fundraising and supported others going through the cancer journey.  I no longer doubt my worth or what my life should be about and that is a wonderful feeling.

Am I  a Survivor of Fighter?

So it seems that I am in a cycle of surviving and fighting...perhaps all survivors are fighters in one way or another?  And even though you have survived something you still have to fight to move on from it.

 

 

Comments

02.06.2017

This is a great blog Anna, you definitely are a fighter-surviver! I can relate to this 100%, you've articulated this emotional struggle so well. Look after yourself and hope to see you again xxx

06.06.2017

Hey Anna, I struggled to plan ahead for a long time even after my treatment had finished. I stopped buying calendars as I didn't want to 'tempt fate' by doing so, I'm now 12 years on my diagnosis and I have a very lovely Poldark calendar ;-) Xx

06.06.2017

Great blog Anna & one I can relate to having survived chemo and now fighting to not allow the fear to control my life. Survival of treatment was one stage but the fight to resume a "normal" life was ongoing until I concluded( with the help of councelling)I have  to embrace a new normal. Best wishes to you x

06.06.2017

Hi Anna your blog really mirrored what my Son is going through. He finished treatment for AML in Nov 16. He struggles mentally and has found it so hard since he's been home. He's a lad that won't talk much. He hasn't agreed to counselling yet. Do you think that would help? X

06.06.2017

Hi Anna! This is a brilliant blog and mirrors what so many of us experience. I agree that the brain is a marvellous thing in the way it adapts to what we are going through. I liken it a bit like childbirth, where you go through so much, but then within months the pain is forgotten. Certainly I remember more of the laughs and fun we had as a family during my treatment (or perhaps I am odd) than how rough I felt. I think acceptance of life being different is a big part of recovery. It was not easy, especially as nobody talked about the panic, anxiety and depression that most of us go through when I finished treatment, and because I had aggressive relapsing disease I never seem to have reached the point when I can say "Hurrah! It's over". I read somewhere recently that doctors refer to people as being in a disease free period, and that is the best I can hope for myself and for others. Take care, and you will reach a stage where you will have more better days than days when you struggle....

 

06.06.2017

Hello, I am sorry that your son is struggling after treatment for AML. I think that it is a shame that males do not share emotions, and certainly I would say your son is not alone, whether they are having/had treatment or are close to someone who has been ill. Counselling is not for everyone, and he would have to want to do it. If he is naturally quiet perhaps you could have a look among the blogs of other people who have had AML, or he might be willing to talk to someone from Bloodwise. You could also ask Bloodwise for literature on AML and life after treatment. I hope that I have been of help. Best wishes to you, your son and family

06.06.2017

Hi Anna

Thanks for a great blog.  It really encapsulated how I'm feeling and dealing with those thoughts and feelings especially at this end of my transplant.  In fact I shall use some of your words, if that's OK, as a family member living abroad asked me very similar questions recently, and I was having trouble putting a reply together.  

08.06.2017

Hello and thanks for commenting and I am really glad that my words have helped you.  Of course I am happy to use what I have written to express your feelings! It is certainly a tough journey and I hope all goes well for you! Keep in touch,regards Anna

08.06.2017

Hi Louise and thank you so much for reading my blog and your comments.  As you say it is a rollercoaster with laughs and tears along the way. I really like the phrase 'disease free period' so thanks for sharing that!  Keep well, Anna x

08.06.2017

Thanks, it's lovely to hear that you can relate to it.  Keep well and hope to see you again soon too xx

08.06.2017

Hey, I can totally relate to the not being able to plan too far ahead...my mum who had breast cancer twice used to say the same!  And I can't wait for Sunday when Poldark is back!!!  Something to smile about ehh ;-) x

08.06.2017

Hi and thank you for commenting, sorry to hear your son is struggling and I can totally relate to how he must be feeling.  I haven't had any counselling yet but it is something I am investigating at the moment so I would definately say he should do the same.  The only thing is finding the right type of therapy as I feel for us having been through something so traumatic it needs someone who is more specialised not just a standard counseller (if you know what I mean).  Please keep in touch if you want me to keep you updated with what I find out.  The one comfort you can tell your son is that he is not alone and not wrong for having the feelings he is having...this may give him some immediate relief as it did for me.  Best wishes, Anna

08.06.2017

Thank you Maria, it is good to hear that others have managed to get through it.  If you don't mind me asking, what type of counselling did you have and who referred you?  I think you are right and that I need to forget about the old normal and focus on the new normal!  Best wishes x

08.06.2017

Hi, I did post a reply but it seems to have disappeared!  Thanks for reading my blog!  It is good to hear from your experience that it will get better!!  I do feel nervous about planning too far ahead too!  Perhaps I need a lovely Poldark calendar too...can't wait for Sunday!! ;-))))