You will know, if you read Bah! regularly, that although I am pleased and proud to be a breast cancer survivor, I don’t really like the word survivor. There’s a certain joylessness to it, I find. (After all, someone who crawls from the wreckage of a car crash with multiple fractures and missing an eye has survived the accident.)
Natalie already helped me out a great deal this week when she told me she was a 16 year breast cancer survivor. But then she put something in the comments that helped me even more:
Next time I’ll say…”I’ve been thriving for over 16 years since my breast cancer diagnosis!” Which is a more accurate description of my journey.
Thrive. That’s the word I’ve been searching for.
Although I knew what it meant, I was so enamoured of it that I looked it up in a dictionary:
(of a child, animal, or plant) grow or develop well or vigorously : the new baby thrived.• prosper; flourish : education groups thrive on organization | [as adj. ] (thriving) a thriving economy.
ORIGIN Middle English (originally in the sense [grow, increase] ): from Old Norse thrífask, reflexive of thrífa ‘grasp, get hold of.’
You gotta love those origins. A cross between ‘grow’ and ‘get hold of’ feels like exactly what I’ve been doing for the last two and a bit years. (And eating biscuits. And knitting.)
A bit giddy, I went to the thesaurus next:
flourish, prosper, burgeon, bloom, blossom, mushroom, do well,advance, succeed, boom.
What a fabulous parade of words that is.
I’m not going to tell people I’m a breast cancer survivor any more. I’m going to say, “I was diagnosed with a breast cancer in 2008, I had treatment, and now I’m thriving.” For variety, I might say ‘flourishing’ from time to time. (I’ll stay away from mushrooming, advancing and booming, I think.)
Of course, there have been weeks and months when I’ve felt like that unfortunate dragging themselves from the wreck of a car: there have been times when I have been a breast cancer survivor, at best, and if you’d asked me whether I felt I was thriving I’d have held up a piece of paper saying ‘hollow laughter’ because I wouldn’t have had the energy to actually laugh. There may be times to come when I feel like a survivor again. But right now, I’m thriving. I wish you thriving too.