Tuesday, May 22, 2007


It's been over a year since I was diagnosed and I'm still not very comfortable with the term, "Breast Cancer Survivor." You remember "The Scarlet Letter"... yes, I do read. That Scarlet "A" burned into Hester's chest. She could feel it. Could feel people's eyes boring that "A" deeper and deeper. Sometimes I wonder if I will be wearing a Pink "C" the rest of my life. Forever marked. Forever changed. Forever labelled.

People have differing opinions on when you become a Survivor- some say the day you're diagnosed. Some say when they cut the cancer out. Or maybe it's when treatment ends. I sure as hell know I didn't feel like a survivor for a long time. I was just trying to make it through each day. I still am. If I had survived a car accident, say, I could go about my business, not afraid that same car will run me over again. Cancer? Not so much.

I feel a bit like "survivor" is a term those who haven't had cancer use to make those of us "in the club" feel better. Like saying, "You're so strong, you'll beat this." Calling us survivors makes others feel better. That we can get over it. That we'll be "cured." That it will be over. Everyone back to their respective business.

It was very hard for me to say, "I HAD cancer,"... had, as in past tense. It's still hard for me to say. Cancer is still a part of my life. Some of that is by choice, so maybe I'm gluing that pink "C" on myself. But I squirm a bit at "survivor." I'm not sure why. I'm proud to be an example for others. I'm happy to share my experience. I guess I just don't feel like I've survived anything yet. If I die of a heart attack at 75, then maybe I'll have survived breast cancer.

When I was at the YSC conference, there was a woman who spoke about what it means to be a survivor. (I don't remember her name- damn chemo brain.) She said something like this:

You go from patient to survivor when you stop saying, "Why me?" and start saying, "What can I learn?"

(Pausing for dramatic moment of revelation...)

I guess in that respect, I've been a survivor for a long time. I was never really the "Why me?" kind of girl. Shit happens. And I've been trying to learn from this for a long time. Maybe that's all we can really ask. Take what you can. Learn from it. Try to do your best. Take all the support you get - no matter how it's labelled.

Hi, my name is Courtney Bugler and I'm a breast cancer survivor.


Anonymous said...

Yeah you are, and I love you for it!

Jayne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

I totally GET this. Jean and I spoke at length about my disappointment from going from survivor back to patient. She asked me point blank couldn't I be both? Of course, then I went to the health food store in my Race for the Cure Survivor shirt last night. . . ugh, usually I know better. I have to go blog about that.

See you TMO.


Anonymous said...

I just came from Jayne's blog and read her write up on this as well ...

With my first diagnosis I wasn't sure I earned the title (it was too, easy, in actuality). But after being diagnosed a second time and enduring 9 hours on an OR table and a recovery that took months thanks to a TRAM flap, I realized, 'whoa,' I was seriously surviving something that could kill me.

Even if it is simply that you survived your treatment ... that's enough to earn you the title.

Embrace it girl!

Anonymous said...

I had a friend through The 3-Day direct me to your page. I love the way you have verbalized so much with this disease.
A woman I know is struggling so hard right now, and I can't seem to help her with the "Survivor" term. Sometimes it is something deep within that is inexplicable. Your words really turned a lightbulb on though.
You are a BAD ASS that kicked breast cancer's butt!

Anonymous said...

ditto dude. survivor is a weird word for it when you feel like something's been taken from you.