Thursday, May 27, 2010

Redefining Myself

The world-renowned breast cancer specialist Dr. Susan Love (as far as I can tell that's a real name, how sweet is that?) says that it is almost impossible to go through cancer treatment without becoming somewhat of a new person. And that it's typical to get to a point that you begin to wonder who you have become.

I remember similar feelings after my open-heart surgery. Except that time I had a house full of babies, and the only thing I really could do was get back into the thick of being Mommy. Plus, there was no sense of being part of something bigger than myself. Apparently heart disease is a big problem for women, but I literally knew of no other young mothers whose hearts had failed due to a birth defect. While I certainly had a new appreciation for life, I was an army of one. There was no one to rescue, no new generation that needed saving.

And while I have no delusions of changing the world, I do feel enlisted - into what I'm not sure. I just know I have a sense that I need to do something worthwhile with this experience--something that will have made it worthwhile. At times I feel like the old me is emerging - but then I notice the hair in wrong places, the odd bumps and lumps, the aches, and worries about those aches, and realize that the old me is gone for good.

I've done little things like change my car. The new hairdo is a given. But the biggest changes are yet to come - like the question of where we'll choose to live out the rest of our days. And what I'll finally decide to be when I grow up. It's a big question and I don't have an answer yet.

But there's another question that maybe you all can help me with: what do I call myself? My blog has me listed as a "cancer warrior". That felt right at the time I wrote it. But every soldier reaches a point when the heavy fighting is over, and they have to retreat and lick their wounds. That's me now. Still a fighter, but no longer a warrior.

The accepted term these days is 'survivor'. And maybe that's what I'll use. But it brings to mind a half-starved person strewn on a desert island. I heard of one lady who calls herself a 'thriver'. I liked that, and maybe I'll use it. But Rob gave me a thumbs down. There's always 'victim'. Ha. As if. Maybe 'Cancer Conquerer'? I've always liked 'Conquistador'. That was the mascot of the high school I was supposed to attend in California--before my parents stole my whiny teenage self to Utah. (For those of you who have read Where Hearts Prosper, that happened to be the mascot of Paige's high school as well.) Anyway, back to my dilemma, 'conquistador is a bit of a mouthful, and little pompous. I've thought of 'Cancer Advocate', but pretty much anybody could call themselves one of those.

So there you have it - I started to set up a poll, but that got way too technical. So if you'll just go to comments and tell me your favorite for my new title? Or give me a new idea?

Here are the choices: survivor, thriver, conquerer, conquistador, advocate.

And maybe after I get that figured out I can start working on that big question of what I want to be when I grow up.

UPDATE: Since comments don't always make it through (I had to tighten things up to stop the flow of junk comments) I wanted to add that there have been to votes for the new suggestion of 'cancer champion', in addition to the to votes for warrior and one very persuasive vote for conquistador. Keep 'em coming! =)


Mike and Jen said...

I think that once you're a warrior, you are always a warrior. I looked up the definition of warrior, and it said "a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness". That definition says it can be present or past tense, and it sounds like you to me! I vote you stay with "Cancer Warrior". But that's just my little vote. :)

Kimi said...

I like Jen's logic. It's a good idea. I was about to suggest Cancer Veteran but I liked one of yours better and now that I've written it I really don't like it.

The one I liked best is Cancer Conquistador! Can't tell you how much I like it! I think it's accurate and hilarious at the same time. Shows a sense of pride along with some snark. That one gets my vote. Can we vote more than once, like on Am. Idol? 'Cause I'll just keep dialing that number over and over like a rabid tween girl!

No, really. I like it a lot.

Suzanne Reese said...

Oh my sweet Jen, you make me blush and cry at the same time. Ok, I'll consider keeping warrior. And Keems - so glad you like the Conquistador, especially since I wanted to be one since I was a little girl and never got the chance. Of course a the time that meant I dreamed of being a blonde hottie with my Farah hair on the football stands cheering for all the hunkie surfer dudes. But it's the getting there that counts, right? And go ahead and get those fingers raw calling in. I dare ya.

Suzanne Reese said...

Oh, and veteran is good too. (patting top of keems head). I'll add that to the list.

Karlene said...

I like Warrior too.

Sierra Snow Soaps said...

Warrior for sure!

A little red car to conquer! My dear daughter learned on a 4 speed and boy does that impress the high school boys! She could teach you.
Michelle in NV