Who is a Survivor?

The Oxford dictionary defines survivor as:

1.“A person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.”

2.“The remainder of a group of people or things.”

3.“A person who copes well with difficulties in their life.”


            But “survivor” is more than just a noun, a word. It is a feeling, it is a state of being. My wife was diagnosed with melanoma in August of 2004. She was a survivor until May of 2008 when she lost her battle with cancer. I watched her suffer through scans, drug therapies, surgeries, and side effects. Myself and my children staying beside her through this journey and helping where we could. Witnessing the hell she went through created an image for me. I thought, this is what a survivor is.

            In 2014 I was getting a spot on my chest looked at with my dermatologist. It was nothing, just an ingrown hair. During the skin exam a spot on my back was noticed and biopsied. It tested positive and the next week it was removed. It was found as “in situ”. Other than regular skin checks not other treatment was necessary. There was some discomfort while the incision healed but that only lasted about a month. How could I call myself a survivor after witnessing what a survivor is with my wife?

            I look back at the Oxford dictionary version and focus on #3. “A person who copes well with difficulties in their life”. This by far is the broadest while still being the most accurate. The truth is our goal is that a melanoma survivor is to have an experience like mine as opposed to my wife’s. And the circle of survivorship expands well beyond just the person being treated. The family, the friends, the caregivers, the medical professionals. All these people carry the burden with the patient and all “cope well with difficulties”. We move forward helping with prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment programs. We raise funds for research to come up with a cure. It is how we “cope well with difficulties” and survive.

My fellow survivors, we have but one goal. And that is to simply create more survivors.