Let me start by saying that cancer defines me. I don’t know if I “let” it define me or if I have chosen for it to define me. Either way, the outcome is the same. My Tumblr and some of my other online profiles are simply a string of self-definitions: Writer. Buddhist. Geek. Cancer survivor. And to anyone who says “don’t let it define you,” well it’s too late. It does.

I mean, how can it not? To say it hasn’t impacted me would be a lie. It has completely altered my outlook on life. Sure, I was pretty liberal
and free-spirited to begin with, but now the fear of recurrence spurs me on to do all the things I want to do, and experience things I’ve never experienced before. I have done a fire walk. Next month I’m going on a hot air balloon ride. I’ve applied to do a masters degree in creative writing alongside my full time job. I’m learning Swedish. I’ve been to New York. Cancer has propelled me into these things.

Alongside that, I’m more grateful than I have ever been – for my health, for every second spent with my partner (even the seconds spent watching Battlestar Galactica. I’m starting to get into it a little.) I have a new attitude about life. I can see my mortality like floodlights have been thrown onto the finish line, and I’m only in my twenties. I don’t let little things get to me as much because I know how bad things could be, and even though I’ve been shown the finish line, I don’t know how far away it is.

I’m proud of my outlook on life, and thought I would never say there are positives to cancer, I attribute positive changes in my attitude to my experiences. And as for “letting it define you”, if I were to use such terminology as “battling cancer” or “fighting cancer” (which I don’t, I can’t stand it), I would say haven’t we done enough fighting already without having to fight against what some people may deem as an unhealthy or incorrect outlook? It is tiring. We feel how we feel, and that’s it. It’s okay. All feelings and approaches regarding cancer and survivorship are valid. Everyone is different. So we should define ourselves however we feel like, in any way that’s right for us. Sure, for cancer to seep into every nook and cranny so that a cancer survivor or patient is all we are, well that would be worrying. But cancer affects many aspects of our lives, not just our health. To say it hasn’t affected us afterwards wouldn’t be accurate. So yes, I am a cancer survivor. That is part of my identity, and I am slowly beginning to feel comfortable with that.