Why I Consider My Wife a Cancer Survivor, Even After Her Passing


In December of 2016 I was added to the National Cancer Survivor’s Day Foundation Speakers Bureau.

I was pretty excited when I found out the news.

I had written the foundation a few months prior and had submitted my application but had not heard back. I had assumed they were not interested.

After all, my blog is entitled, “Better Not Bitter Widower.” How can a widower speak about cancer survivorship?

My wife didn’t survive.

It got me to thinking: What exactly does it mean to be a cancer survivor?

Is one a survivor if they are living with the disease? Do successful surgeries make one a cancer survivor? How about effective chemotherapy? Or radiation? Or immunotherapy? Clean scans?  Is that what defines a survivor of this disease?

Well, yes. Any of the items stated above would indeed classify one as a cancer survivor.

By typical standards.

I suppose I am atypical.

Most would say my wife is not a cancer survivor. I would say they are wrong. My wife is a cancer survivor.

Cancer may have taken her life, but the fight is not null and void.

Her fight, her bravery, her strength, her grace. Her smile. Her very being. The beauty that was her soul. Cancer did not take these things from my wife.

My wife may no longer be here. Cancer may have forced her Home. But my wife survived cancer.

Michelle survived cancer because of how she fought. Brave as could be.

Michelle survived cancer because of how she lived. Full of love.

Michelle survived cancer because of how she smiled. Genuinely, and up until the very end.

Michelle survived cancer because of the memories and enduring legacy she leaves behind. She will never be forgotten.

The typical definition of a cancer survivor may be preferred. I hope successful surgeries, effective therapies and clean scans become more of the norm. I hope that one day, they will find a cure.

Until then, know this: Once a cancer warrior, always a cancer warrior. Once a cancer survivor, always a cancer survivor.

That rank, it can never be taken away.

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Thinkstock photo via Ricardo Reitmeyer.

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