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I Am Not a Fighter

DisgruntledThose of us who are around our mid-40’s like I am probably remember a Nike commercial from the mid-1990’s starring Charles Barkley in which he announced, without shame, “I am not a role model.”

Now, I’m more of a football and baseball fan, but I know who Charles Barkley is and I remember that commercial. And it runs through my head quite often these days with a small edit. My mind changes “I am not a role model” into “I am not a fighter.”

There is a prevalent characterization that having cancer is a battle, a fight, a war. And those of us who have cancer are fighters. And warriors. And we can beat cancer – if we just fight hard enough.

Please believe me when I tell you this – characterizing this disease as a fight insinuates that it can be won. That doesn’t help those of us who are facing Stage IV cancer – breast or otherwise. There is no cure for Stage IV cancer. By definition that means that there is no beating it. There is no winning this battle. There is staving it off, there is delaying the inevitable, there is praying for the miraculous, but there is no victory to look forward to.

Many have said something to me that sounds a lot like this – “You’ve beaten cancer once. You’ll beat it again.”

Actually, the fact that I have cancer “again” by definition means that I did not “beat it” the first time. My cancer did not slink off in defeat. It retreated, regrouped and reappeared elsewhere.

Cancer is not afraid of me. I, on the other hand, am brought to my knees – mostly figuratively and sometimes literally – by the reality of cancer.

Calling cancer a battle makes it sound as if there is a level playing field, with both cancer and I having an equal(ish) shot of winning. But, in the immortal words of Adriane Balboa as her husband Rocky took off to train in the Siberian winter against the Russian Drago, “You can’t win!”

In the same vein, when someone with cancer dies, they are said to have “lost their battle.” As if, had they only fought a little bit harder, they would still be with us. Now, I know that I’m ascribing my own point of view to this and no one is trying to say that someone needs to try harder to beat cancer. But for someone in my situation, asking someone to fight or saying someone has lost the fight misses the point.

Honestly, cancer feels more like a job than a fight – take the medicine, swallow the supplements, get the blood drawn, go for the second opinion, see the doctor, see the other doctor, see the first doctor again, eat the kale, drink the green juice, keep meticulous notes, take the chemo, suffer the radiation, lather, rinse, repeat. It is more of a job than any job I’ve ever had has been.

I am not a fighter. I am a disgruntled employee.


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11 replies

  1. I totally love how you explained this Stage IV life that I too am now living. Thank you so very much for posting! All the best to you!

    1. It is a whole new reality. I never would have thought twice pre-Stage 4 about calling it a fight. I know so much more now. Be well.

  2. You have crawled into my head, taken my thoughts and put them to paper. It is really hard when you have the full time job of Mom, full time job of wife, full time job that earns you a salary and then this new job comes along that you don’t want and can’t decline! And then, once in awhile, you just want to be a person and there is so little room for that.

    1. There is so little time to even remember what life was like before, isn’t there? I hate it, for me and for everyone else. Be well.

  3. I have stage 4 from breast to bone. Everything you shared is so honest. I feel exactly as you do and I am grateful to you for your courage expressing your feelings. I wish you love and and as far as possible an easy journey. Xx