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Cancer Isn’t a Battle of Winning or Losing

by Christy FennewaldSurvivor, Breast CancerOctober 26, 2022View more posts from Christy Fennewald

Cancer Isn’t a Battle of Winning or Losing

I was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer at the age of 36 in February 2021. From February of 2021 to July of 2022, I endured a total mastectomy, DIEP flap reconstruction, 4 rounds of the “red devil” chemo, an axillary node dissection resulting in the loss of 20 lymph nodes, 33 rounds of radiation to my left breast, a total hysterectomy, daily doses of anastrozole, multiple recurrence scares, and countless scans. While enduring these treatments, I referred to each as a “battle,” or as something that could be won or lost. In fact, I had a shirt that said “I won.” And, when members of the breast cancer community ended their treatment, they were said to have “won the battle.” When they were taken by cancer, they were said to have “lost their battle to cancer.” In fact, all of the terminology I found relating to cancer was about fighting, staying strong, battles, winning, and losing. I continued using the terms I found around me, but I didn’t find those to be an accurate description after enduring cancer.

Cancer doesn’t do battles. Cancer takes. It takes, takes, and takes. It cheats. It doesn’t play by any set of rules. We “win” when we are able to diagnose its pattern of cheating. When we are able to catch on to its deception, we can take action. We “lose” when cancer plays the hand we can’t see—the one hidden under the table.

Since being diagnosed, I have witnessed cancer take several people’s lives. I’ve read through my share of “____ lost their battle to cancer.”

As a former competitive athlete, I’m familiar with winning and losing. As a child and teen, I spent hours each week training for races, where I would ultimately win or lose. The harder I raced, the better chance I had at winning. When I gave into the pain during a race, the better chance I had at losing. Each time, winning or losing was predicated on my own efforts. However, applying the same terms of “winning” and “losing” to an opponent that knows no rules is wrong. It is just as deceptive as cancer.

Every person I’ve encountered during my journey with cancer is a warrior. They are training for this “battle” through treatments, medications, surgeries, and more. However, whether or not cancer retreats is not related to one person’s efforts. Rather, it’s a testament to the true nature of cancer—its cruelty.

Instead of referring to my battle with cancer, I’ve changed my language to that of my journey with cancer. It is a journey we endure. We are strong because that is all we can be, but I don’t think we win or we lose. I think we just haven’t caught onto cancer’s game.

The battle of cancer does not rest on one person. Rather, our battle is the research, the science, the doctors, the support systems, the medications, the therapy, and everything else society throws at cancer.

Let’s truly battle cancer by supporting cancer legislation, helping financially, emotionally, and physically, finding new treatments, making advances in research and medicine, and forcing cancer to reveal that hidden hand. This is the battle with cancer—our battle, society’s battle.

I have not won or lost against cancer. I am a warrior who will continue to battle cancer through my outreach until cancer shows the hand we can beat once and for all.

– Christy, breast cancer warrior

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