I AM not a survivor!

I am NOT a Survivor!

Now that I’ve debuted my website and more people are looking and reading, I’m getting some great reviews. Feels so good to know that what I’m doing is touching others in a positive way.
But it’s also highlighted an issue I have when I’m introduced by well-meaning friends as a Breast Cancer Survivor. Why? I am NOT a ‘Survivor’! I am a ‘Thriver’!
Wait, what?
Merriam -Webster’s definition of ‘SURVIVE’:
: to remain alive : to continue to live
: to continue to exist
: to remain alive after the death of (someone)

Merriam-Webster’s definition of ‘THRIVE’:
: to grow vigorously : flourish
: to gain in wealth or possessions : prosper
: to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances —often used with on

Which of these two words would you want to be associated with?  Notice I didn’t say ‘labeled’ with? Which is in fact what we’re doing – a wonderful discussion for another day…

For me, being called a ‘Survivor’, ties me back to a ‘negative’ event in my life. ‘Oh, she survived the Titanic!’ Or, ‘She survived her poor husband Tom, and has three kids to feed!’ Yikes! Yes, the person lives on, but in context to a negative. Or how about all those contestants on the reality TV show, ‘Survivor’?! Dirty, hungry, wondering who will figuratively stab them in the back? The more I think about it, ‘Survivor’ for them might actually be the right word! Honestly though, am I starting to make myself clear?

Playing fetch with Julia

Playing fetch with Julia

Historically, surviving cancer, let’s say as little as 10-15 years ago, was surely an accomplishment to be noted and celebrated! Treatments were crude and remedies to side effects were few and far between. In today’s world and in spite of the seemingly archaic practice of killing off ALL of a persons cells in order to combat the mutinous cancerous ones – Cancer treatment HAS come a long way! And I’m happy to note, that many hospitals, like my ‘Cancer Alma Mater’, Mt Sinai Hospital in NYC, are working towards tailoring treatment not only to the specific cancer but to the patient as well. They’re realizing the value of the entire patient’s well being as part of his/her treatment. Let’s hear it for Integrative Medicine!

All that said,
Isn’t it time we modernize how we speak about those who have lived ‘past’ their Cancer?
Some people can say, ‘I had Cancer and I thrive’. Others can say, ‘I have Cancer and I thrive.’ And others can simply say, ‘I’m a Thriver!’
Oh yeah! That’s the team I want to be on! I live my life not dwelling in what happened ‘yesterday’, but rather in how I can live my best day, today. I’m rewarded in drawing on the knowledge that I had the strength to overcome a difficult episode in my life and now I ‘thrive’ in living beyond that battle.

So please remember: as I have told my dearest friends to a modicum of eye-rolling at this point – please don’t introduce me as a ‘Survivor’!
For goodness sake – introduce me as a ‘Thriver’!


  1. Aunt Dorie

    Merilyn.! From the time we learned of your cancer diagnosis, until now, when you have become a successful business woman, “chemist”, and entrepreneur, you have fought this disease, and you have won. I will never again call you, my niece, or my Dawnie, cancer “survivers”. You are Thrivers. Living life to the fullest and giving back. Love you.

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