Conflicting Labels

I’ve written quite a few blog posts about labels.  Labels are important and can be extremely meaningful; labels can also be fraught with triggers and emotion.  One such label that creates a lot of angst for me, is survivor.  I’m sure no one is surprised by this as I’ve written about this before and it’s a common discussion within the online support groups where I spend time.

Yet, I’ve often struggled with how to express my complicated relationship with this label.  I don’t have a problem speaking up and communicating how being called a survivor is an issue for me; at the same time, the reception of my speaking up has caused a lot more conflict than I was expecting.  Every time I’ve asked for input into these conflicts I find myself in, most of the responses I’ve received have been along the lines of avoiding the conflict.

Let’s face it, I don’t avoid conflict.

I honestly run straight into it.

I find that I end up in conflicts most times because I am very direct and up front.  It is nearly impossible for me to play a game where I don’t like or agree with something and the people around me don’t know.  My perspective is usually written all over my face and I don’t do subtlety well.  Not at all.

So, I speak up.

I’m often baffled by the responses I’ve received when I’ve asked not to be identified as a survivor.  More than one early stage breast cancer survivor have reacted badly, countering my request with an assertion that they can call me whatever they want on their own social media accounts.  It appears too much to ask that anyone who is posting a photo of me then include the label that I believe describes me.

Is this petty?

Maybe it is.  Maybe I’m making something out of nothing.  Maybe I should keep my mouth shut.  I’m not very good at that.  I’m not good at letting things go. I’m not good at leaving things alone.

You see, when someone calls me a survivor, it feels like a slap in the face.  It feels like my limited time and my impending mortality are made into a big pie and then ground into my pores.  Being called a survivor reminds me that unlike many early stagers, my life expectancy has been cut drastically short, that I don’t belong in the “club” of people who can celebrate the end of treatment by ringing a bell and can celebrate the length of survivorship with pink tutus and pink drenched parties.

I can’t do that.

I will always have cancer.

Why should I be quiet about having to relive that?

6 thoughts on “Conflicting Labels

  1. I so understand your desire not be labelled as a “survivor” Abigail – being in a similar situation myself. I don’t think it’s right for people to apply any kind of labels to others anyway, especially on social media, without first asking their permission. I can think of all sorts of labels which, when applied without permission or understanding of the situation, could easily cause offence. Labels are lazy ways to try to pigeon-hole people. I for one don’t want to be pigeon-holed.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Abigail, as we are all too aware, names and labels are a way for people to try and make sense of their own situations and those of whom they cannot understand. At times, it makes others feel better to not think about the reality of our pain. Personally, having been left to my own accord by most all of my family and friends, my outward appearance creates a label that cuts so deep it may as well leave a scar as a result of metastatic cancer. There never are any winners when it comes to finding words. They hurt, they heal, but mainly if there isn’t anything to say that seems right, just say nothing. My upbringing taught me to not be held back by labels. I suppose in a way it’s helped me not think about myself as having limitations in life or life with cancer.

    Liked by 1 person

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