What am I?

There’s no word for what I am.

There are two main cancer narratives. The first is that you are diagnosed, you battle bravely, you defeat cancer, you are a survivor.

The second is that you are diagnosed, you battle bravely, you succomb – you are a victim.

What about us? The ones living with cancer? Cancer sits inside me, and it’s made itself comfortable in there. It’s got its feet up, it’s watching crap TV and drinking beer. It leaves its dirty cups on the coffee table, chocolate wrappers on the floor. I tidy up around it, but it doesn’t go. It sneers at me sometimes. So now, I don’t use that room very often. Maybe I choose to sit in a different place, to watch a different movie. Maybe I keep the door closed, ignore the death metal that crashes as I walk past, the sickly smell that seeps out once in a while…but from time to time, I open the door, and there it is, ugly and selfish and stinking, and not moving on.


I wanted a name for what I am. I’m not a survivor. I’m not a victim. I’m just living with this. I can’t call myself a “liver” though. That would be crazy, and confusing. I follow a blog called Riding the Pooka, where Iridacea uses cancer as a verb. I am cancering. You are cancering. We are cancering. I have cancered for years, now. That would make me a cancerer, which feels ugly and uncomfortable – and as if I do it actively. Maybe canceree would be better.

Cancerette? Too girly.

Cancerteer? Too swashbuckling.

Cancerella. Cancerina. Cancerista.

So, if you’ve found a useful word that describes a person in this state of living with – not dying of – let me know.

About sarahsouthwest

I'm now in my early 50s. I started writing again as a way of exploring the world, and feel that over the last 2 years I have really grown as a writer. By day I work with children and young people with mental health difficulties. I juggle my own two children, my work, my writing practice, generally managing to keep all the balls up in the air.
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4 Responses to What am I?

  1. Iridacea says:

    I follow a woman on Instagram who uses the #breastcancerinitiate to describe herself, which I like. It feels like an initiation to face mortality in all the ways that cancer instigates. Perhaps that makes you a priestess, or a monk. You are initiated, you are on a path that requires a whole set of disciplines that the life path of non cancering folks doesn’t. Maybe that makes you a disciple? Wishing you well as you seek a term that honors and empowers you.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Round-Up: The Pink Wave Is Upon Us Edition | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

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