…mother, wife, daughter, family chef, laundry goddess, chauffeur, gardener, domestic goddess, survivor, advocate and patient.
Until I had a brain tumor, I had never considered the meaning behind these labels, if they fit and why people used them.
Being diagnosed with something horrible like a brain tumor has quickly taught me, aside from how the mention of it literally sucks the air right out of people, how quickly people label you. You suddenly become either a survivor or a patient and the application of these labels is often flawed.
Prior to my diagnosis I had never thought to label someone a survivor or a patient of any health crisis. I figured it was their place to share with me how they identified themselves and to be truthful, their condition never altered how I had always identified them.
Universally, without ever asking, people have assigned me the identity of survivor. I consider myself a survivor of life, not a brain tumor survivor. For me there is a huge difference.
I have the unfortunate and shit luck privilege of having a brain tumor. Plain and simple, it totally SUCKS! It is a brain tumor that will never be gone, that no cure exists for, that will come back and will eventually and likely be the cause of my demise; of course if I don’t get hit by the beer truck or my boys don’t drive me to the brink of insanity first.
Surviving surgery and currently being stable does not mean I am survivor. I am a patient, a medically stable patient, who will always be a patient. I was always a survivor and still am, just not a brain tumor survivor.
I think people want to call me a survivor simply because I have something that at its core is incomprehensible and puts one face to face with mortality; where the journey for too many is measured in months, not years. Simultaneously, coupled with the simple fact I am still stable, still “normal” and leading an unaffected life thus far, people to want to identify me as a survivor.
I beg to differ and I am sorry.
For me, considering myself a survivor means that the battle is over and won, the possibility of recurrence is so statistically small that the experience can be packed, locked away and thought of as something you lived through, kicked the shit out of and is dead and gone.
I am a patient and will always be a neuro-surgical patient and probably a neuro-oncology patient one day. This does not upset me, this is reality and I wish more people would let reality simply be reality and come to terms with it. This is how my cards have been dealt and I am at peace with it. It certainly doesn’t mean I like it, but it is what it is. Wishing it away or wishing it to be different wastes time and energy and I’d prefer to keep my credits in those areas thank you.
My life, like every life, is made up of a symphony of experiences. Having a brain tumor does not define who I am, nor does it take precedent over my other life experiences. Having a brain tumor and being a patient happens to be a permanent part of my life and a part of our journey as have all the other permanent life experiences being a mother, wife, daughter and friend have been. For me, the reality of being a patient keeps me on task, centered over what is most important and driven to live a fulfilled life and make an impact.
So, at the end of the day why don’t you just call me Jennifer. We’ll let the rest of the labels of life fall into place and if you really need to label me… well, just ask me what I think first. Deal?