Survivorship badge

In this week’s newsletter, Nancy highlights an older post where she asks What’s wrong with a survivorship badge anyways?

I have been reflecting a lot lately on survivorship – but also where I’m going to go next with my life. This is never an easy task – this contemplation.

I am a survivor and get that doesn’t mean cancer is over. For the majority of people breast cancer is never over. There will never be a time when I go to the doctor’s office and don’t have my history of cancer play some role in what is happening.

I recall when I was first diagnosed and learning a lot – asking the question, if I get treated at Stanford, do I get to wear the sweater? Now, really what I was thinking was that I was doing so much learning that I should have earned at least a masters degree! There should be an ePatient masters degree – wouldn’t that be a novel idea. Something setup to help patients through disease but also beyond – for those who want to learn more about being a patient and an advocate. It would totally be an appropriate degree – perhaps within a faculty of education or health sciences. (I see it more as a social science than a medical or natural science).

As I mentioned in my last post, over Christmas I had a great trip to Bryce Canyon, but also managed to crack a rib mountain biking.

We had a great vacation in Hawaii, despite my cracked rib. Kauai turned out to be a blessing that we had not expected. We stayed at a lovely place, soaked in the natural beauty, and ate lots of just made chocolate (one of the friends we were with was taking a bean-to-bar chocolate making class, so we got to test lots of samples). I even go to attend a workshop and observe how chocolate is made from the bean to bar. And I feel like I could munch on raw (fermented but not roasted) chocolate beans all day.

After Kauai, we spent a few days on Maui. When we booked the trip I also booked a boat trip – with Sail Maui – to Molokini. We had done the same trip the first time we went to Maui, but the wind direction meant that we didn’t make it to Molokini. This time, the winds were calm, and coming from the right direction that we did get to Molokini – which had some pretty cool snorkelling, but too many people as it is a prime tour boat destination. Along the way, we got to see whales, a couple up close – as we were watching one out front on the bow, another popped up right behind the boat surprising everyone. The two of them swam beside the boat and then went under the trampoline that we were standing on (it was a catamaran). It was all very exciting – and let to an amazing day. The trip had many amazing days, all of them in different ways.

By the time our vacation came to an end, we were ready to be home. I was re-energized and ready to jump into work and dissertation writing … and then, I woke up with a sore throat … the cold that had been going around had caught up to me. Unfortunately, this cold went to my lungs pretty quickly, and turned into a nasty case of bronchitis, which as knocked me down at a time when I have a lot of work to do – classes start on Monday and I am prepping two courses, one that I have not taught before. So I’m trying to get that done while hoping I can speak for long enough without coughing to record presentations. Ugg…

So this brings me back to the survivorship badge … I took on the survivor label after treatment because it is the term that everyone uses. After watching my friend die, I feel more like a survivor. I am here, she is not. Part of my role as a survivor is to hold her in my memory. I am thankful for our friendship.

My survivor badge is one that contains the memories of all the friends that I have today because of my cancer diagnosis – and the friends I have lost. I think I have earned that badge many times over.

What would your survivor badge contain?

Feature image: View from Hindu monastery on Maui  © Rebecca Hogue.

  • Becky


  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic Becky. I know the term is loaded for many, but I am a great believer in the freedom for each of us to choose the words that resonate most with us – we’ve earned that right the hard way.

  • Hi Becky,
    It’s interesting how the survivor label works for some and feels cumbersome and downright unacceptable to others, and this isn’t necessarily dependent on stage. There are so many labels, not sure why there’s a need for so many. I admit to using the survivor label now and then because I’ve yet to figure out what to call myself when the need arises, but it’s never felt right to me. Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this and thanks for the mention too.

    I’m glad you had a good vacation in Hawaii, but sorry to hear about the cracked rib. Ouch!

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