Recover Making Sense of Breast Cancer Your Survivor Identity
According to the National Cancer Institute, you are a survivor from the day you are diagnosed. Even though there are positive meanings attached to the term “survivor”, not every woman identifies herself as such.
For many women, there is a range of emotions tied to their experience with breast cancer and to the idea of being a survivor. They can range from feelings of loneliness to a strengthened vitality of connections with family, friends and other survivors, as well as with people suffering from another serious illness.
Some women feel as though their cancer experience was not severe enough to warrant the title of survivor. Others prefer to keep their disease a private matter. However, a significant number of women embrace the idea of being a “breast cancer survivor” and celebrate their victory in battling through treatment and overcoming the disease.
For the latter, being a survivor is an important part of who they are. It becomes part of their identity and “new” normal.
The women who embrace their survivor identity seem to emerge from their breast cancer experience with a new perspective on life. They are stronger, bolder and more beautiful than ever before. They truly thrive in their lives after breast cancer treatment.
When women embrace their survivor status, their lives take on whole new meaning: New opportunities arise, new connections are made, a new level of confidence is gained and a new way of living emerges.
They become part of an automatic “sisterhood” simply because they are survivors and walk through life as a proud warrior.
It seems as though women who embrace their survivor identity seek to live a more authentic life, and their self-actualization, i.e. desire for self-fulfillment, becomes more heightened. This most likely stems from the personal growth and development that occurs during their breast cancer journey.
Perhaps it is fair to say that there is an intrinsic transformation that results from a personal crisis and/or a serious medical illness like breast cancer. In fact, there is research that proves that there is a relationship between medical illness and positive life change. And, out of this transformation, a new identity is born.
With it comes a “new” normal for survivors’ lives, which may be completely different than what they knew as normal before their diagnosis.
Your breast cancer diagnosis and personal journey almost certainly will cause you to re-evaluate your life, purpose and relationships, rethinking how you live and how you approach your overall health and well-being. Contemplating these facets of your life is all part of the recovery and healing process.
The “What’s Next for My Life?” companion journal is an excellent tool to manage and promote your healing and recovery process after breast cancer treatment and to help define your survivor identify.
Other resources and tools available that may also be helpful are:
Living Beyond Breast Cancer: A Survivor's Guide for When Treatment Ends and the Rest of Your Life Begins
A Breast Cancer Journey: Your Personal Guidebook
Breast Cancer Recovery: No One Wrote a Manual
Share your experience on your breast cancer journey on our survivor story page.