Canswer Hive: Let’s Talk About the Term “Cancer Survivor”

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day. We are all about showing appreciation, respect and admiration for those who have faced cancer, but not everyone  identifies with the word “survivor.” In fact, some are alienated by it – particularly those in the metastatic cancer community. So we asked our Rethink Young Women’s Network what term resonated with them, if any. Here’s what they had to say:

Billie says:

My son was 3 when I was diagnosed, I explained how I had to fight the sickness, he replied “you warrior mommy” and this is how I have identified myself since then, as a warrior.

My son was 3 when I was diagnosed, I explained how I had to fight the sickness, he replied “you warrior mommy” and this is how I have identified myself since then, as a warrior.

Krystle says:

I struggle with this. Especially since people always ask what’s next and where I am at. Because I’m still having Herceptin I don’t feel like I’m at the survivor stage but I feel like I’ve earned that title too. I guess I’m still a fighter, and likely always to be.


Cancer is/was just a shitty thing that happened to me, but I don’t identify with it. I’m just me (bad humor, wife, mom, etc), I just happened to be all those things while also going to chemo.

Alina says:

My friends call me a warrior goddess. I’m just barely a week out of treatment, so I still see myself as a patient. I don’t really identify with survivor as I’m too scared of a relapse if I dare cross the line from realist to optimist and start calling myself that any time before the 5 year mark.

Emily says:

Well I’m currently in chemo (1 week left!) and my sister gave me this clever card that had a chemo ninja on the front of it. Then it became this running joke that I was a chemo ninja because I often startled my mom unintentionally by appearing in rooms throughout the house without her hearing my footsteps. So I’ll go with chemo ninja for now.

Val says:

I’m not a fan of the word survivor. I’ve been saying I’m a Cancer Veteran; I fought my own war in 2016 and won. I’m strong, I am breathing, I’m healthy, I have scars, but I am ready to move forward.

Ashley says:

Recently diagnosed, about to have 2nd round of chemo….I mainly feel like a ‘fighter in a showdown match I know I am going to win.

Ange says:

Right now I’m a fighter, a chemo warrior. I don’t love the term survivor, but don’t know what else I’ll use?

Maja says:

I am currently receiving chemo and I feel like it’s a battle everyday so I would call myself a fighter/warrior. Sometimes it feels like I’m fighting a war…

Lainie says:

I just started radiation (after surgery and chemo). The title I’m feeling most is “badass!” I definitely identify with being a patient but also just trying to live my life as mom, wife, colleague, friend…

Libby says:

I don’t like the fighter/warrior/battle terms myself, so I guess I’m going with survivor, though it’s more like I’m surviving, because survivor feels like it’s over and done with… (2A in 2016, er/pr +, her-2 neg, lumpectomy, chemo + rads)


I struggle with this, too. I don’t identify with survivor and I’m trying to thrive…. But have never called myself a thriver. In conversation, I stay away from labels and just say I had cancer or experienced cancer treatment. Every day it seems the width and breadth of impact cancer has had on my life increases (even though I’m nearly 4 years post diagnosis), so maybe I am a something.

Libby responded:

Trying to thrive, me too. Thriver seems like just a catchphrase, they all do! It’s more complicated than one word.

Julie says:

Survivor. You’re surviving the second you are diagnosed. I’m stage four but still just go with survivor. I also refer to myself as the mythical unicorn because I’m a young adult with cancer and people still don’t understand that young adults do get cancer.

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