The Titanic, as most readers will know, was a British passenger liner that sunk on its maiden voyage after colliding with an iceberg in the northern Atlantic Ocean. The craft carried 2,224 people, including the crew. My guess is that none of the people who boarded that ship on April 10, 1912 doubted that they would survive the trip. Some of them did, but many, sadly, did not.
Now, using the ‘logic’ that we use to call people cancer ‘survivors’ (anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer), all of the 2,224 people on the Titanic were survivors. They boarded the Titanic. They stayed on the boat for a period of time. By today’s standards, they could have all owned and proudly sported t-shirts that read “I am a Titanic Survivor!”
For the sake of honest communication, the term ‘survivor’ should to be applied to people who go through something, live through the during part of the something, and then continue to live after that something is over. The term may be accurately applied to people diagnosed with early stage cancer, although I think many of them will never feel like their trip on the cancer Titanic is over.
For me to say, “I’m a lung cancer survivor!” is a complete misnomer. I’m surviving cancer, but can I survive cancer? Surviving and survivor mean different things. One is for the present. One is for the future.
Popular culture encourages our say-it-loud, say-it-proud pronouncement of cancer survivorship and unfortunately, American economy enjoys great boons from the cancer survivor ‘market’. Think of all of those wrist bands, survivor t-shirts, breast cancer walks with its accompanying push to buy, buy, buy (“The more of us who walk, the more of us survive!). And let’s not forget the month of October when you can buy just about anything in pink - from yogurt, to Barbie dolls, to footballs, to electric mixers. And cancer survivorship marketing must work very well, as it has now been discovered that some companies color their products pink so that people will buy them thinking they’re supporting those with cancer (I use the breast cancer example because of its prevalence. Other cancer types are catching up).
So for those of you who have actually survived your cancer, like The Unsinkable Molly Brown survived the Titanic, I am nothing but happy for you. For those of you who believe that your story will more likely resemble that of the 1514 people who did not survive, you’re not alone.
|Titanic Memorial in DC|