‘She never complained.’

I reflect from time to time, on what people say about me, about others, other women and men, as they endure – and yes I did mean to use that word – endure their treatments for cancer. Sometimes they say we are brave, and that we don’t complain.

I’ve never understood the ‘brave’ comment. What’s brave about making decisions involving chemical and drug treatments and surgery or multiple surgeries? Or more tests? Or more observations over time to see what happens?

What’s brave about agreeing to take a drug that has a statistical chance of increasing your life span? What’s brave about agreeing to surgery, to anaesthesia, to the potential complications, and possible side-ffects of all of them?

What’s brave about any of that?

It’s simply a choice, and not a choice that anyone would ever want to make. It’s not like choosing a new outfit, or where to go on holiday, or even what kind of an occupation you would like to pursue. It’s a choice from a lesser, more complicated, and sometimes painful set of options. A choice weighted with life and death statistics. It’s a choice made hoping that you wind up in the ‘good’ statistics, in the hope that your outcome doesn’t have the  worst side-effects (or at least not all of them), or the unforeseen complications. The ‘unusual’ patient. I know.

I know all of that.

22 February 2007, day after diagnosis. Brave? No, pissed off.

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I didn’t fight either

February 2011 – out walking in early spring

I keep thinking about that expression on Chemobabe’s recent blog post – ‎’I didn’t  actually fight cancer. The truth is, I got treated.’ And I keep coming back to wondering why we use the term ‘fight’ for cancer. Because I agree with Chemobabe, I didn’t fight either. I smiled at my surgeons, I tried not to be cranky with the nurses when I asked for pain relief,  I put my lippie on when I went to consultations, I tried to have a good attitude. But I know that none of that has any effect on the medical outcome.

In short, I just I did my best. I only ever felt that I was doing the best I could. Because why wouldn’t you just do that?

When someone else sees me undergoing breast cancer treatment, why do they call me brave? And why do some people want to label me as a fighter? I made my treatment decisions based on the evidence available to me – statistics and medical opinions. It wasn’t some kind of battle ground we were in, it was simply me and my doctors trying to give myself the best chance of staying alive. That’s not fighting, that’s just what we do everyday. Continue reading