“Fighting” Cancer

This is how I personally feel about my cancer. If it helps you to feel like you are fighting cancer that’s okay too but this is what brings me peace.

Kalissa and I were talking the other day.  She said something that has been on my mind a lot lately…she said, “Why do they say ‘fight cancer’?”  I was pretty sure I knew what she meant, so I jumped in and said, “I KNOW!!”

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Those of you on the other side of cancer have likely never thought about this.  “Fighting Cancer” has become the normal catch phrase.  It’s what we all say to someone who is going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment.  If you read an obituary of someone who passed due to cancer, it will often say, “lost their battle fighting cancer”.

For me the term “fighting cancer” is a little odd.  I’ve had two people who I know to have been the biggest fighters ever, die.  Seriously, my niece Jody did everything she could to live.  Kramer my husband did too.  Both of them died due to cancer.  Neither were quitters.  Both had overcome every other challenge in their lives.  I can say with absolute certainty that not a single person in either of their lives would have ever called them quitters.  I hate the implication that they “quit fighting” or that they “lost their fight”.  Cancer is something beyond anyone’s control.  It’s not something anyone can quit, stop or conquer of their own doing or will or prayer for that matter.

People say things like, “keep fighting”….or “you can win this fight”.  Here’s the truth.  There’s not a darn thing a person with cancer can really do to fight cancer….Sure, there’s prayer.  Sure there’s eating healthy, going to your appointments, resting, keeping a good attitude, but beyond that, there’s nothing.

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In my personal opinion, in regards to my personal situation with cancer, I think the truth of it is, a person is best if they QUIT FIGHTING CANCER.  I think when I got to the point of acceptance I’ve done much better.  In fact, I’ve made a vow to officially QUIT FIGHTING CANCER.  I’m done.  I’m not fighting it anymore.  Let me explain….I am accepting my cancer diagnosis.  There’s a big difference.  I’m not giving up.  I’m not putting one foot in the grave.  I’m controlling the little I can control.  I’m accepting cancer as a resident in my body.

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With that, I quit asking why me?…I started asking why not me?   There is not a single person in this world more deserving or less deserving of cancer than me.  So why not me?  Faith is getting me where I am going…not good deeds.  I’m done fighting the why mes and accepting it’s me!!  If I was so busy fighting cancer and asking why me, I might wallow and be stuck.

I quit trying to wish the cancer away and started asking what lessons can I learn while I am here.  Can I be kinder to those who have cancer too?  Can I tell people what it’s like on the cancer side of life so they understand people who have cancer better?  Can I see how precious life truly is, so I can appreciate it all the more?  There are lessons all around me to be learned.  I’m opening my eyes.  I’m not waiting for the next punch.  I’m finding a lesson to learn right here where I am at…if I was so busy fighting cancer, I might miss all of this.

I quit being frustrated with doctors, nurses and schedulers and instead started complimenting and appreciating the work they were doing on my behalf.  On Friday I gave chocolates to the schedulers in endocrinology.  If they could control cancer, I’m sure they would.  If they could make my life simpler, I’m sure they would.  Like me, there is nothing they can do.

I quit worrying about having to dip into savings to pay for it all and started being thankful that I have a little savings to dip into.  If I was so busy fighting cancer asking how can I afford this, I might miss the opportunity to be thankful for all the good things in my life that allowed me to build a savings account and emergency fund.

I quit trying to do everything for myself and started asking when I need help.  Just today I asked Kalissa to go to an appointment with me and asked Kelli to finish up childcare.  I’ve asked Karl for things too.  Before, I tried to do everything myself…I’ve learned, asking others for help, actually helps others feel good that they are helping me.  If I was so busy fighting cancer I might be too busy to appreciate all the people surrounding me that are more than willing to help.

Kelli said to me, “why can’t our family just catch a break?”.  Oh Kelli we have.  We’ve caught MANY breaks.  We are constantly “catching breaks”.  I see that because I’m not fighting cancer anymore….I’m accepting it.  By accepting, I can see so much more.

I want my life to be so much more of this….

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and a lot less of this…

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If I “fight”:
I let test results control me
I let appointments control me
I let scan results control me
I let opinions control me
I let waiting control me
I let messages control me
I let doctors control me
I let time control me
I let schedulers control me
I let diets control me
I let protocol control me

I am done fighting cancer.  I am accepting this all as part of my life….BUT IT IS NOT MY LIFE!!

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I have quilts to make, friends to meet, family to love on, childcare kids to care for.  All of this is WAY more important than a few rogue cells in my body who are trying to control me.  Rather than fight them, I’m accepting them as part of life and moving on with the things that really make a difference.

I’ll go to my appointments.  I’ll listen to my doctors.  I’ll do what they ask of me.  I’ll do what I can to make the cancer go away but I refuse to fight against it and let it control my life.

60 thoughts on ““Fighting” Cancer

  1. Linda

    I absolutely agree with everything you have written. These were my feelings when I was diagnosed in 2011. It is not a fight, it’s acceptance and learning to cope with each part of the treatment. Also, as you rightly say welcoming help from friends and family. That makes everyone feel good. So, keep on thinking this way, Jo. Enjoy making that next quilt.

  2. Robyn Fisken

    Such wise words; my husband at some point on his journey with cancer came to a similar conclusion. The words fighting cancer immediately bring up images of winning or losing and neither of which he had any control over.

  3. Judith Fairchild

    Oh Jo you are so right. When you let what’s happening control you things get all out of proportion. You have got the right attitude about your life. Praying does work and lets you get on with enjoying life.

  4. Bobi

    Once again, you have spoken wise words from the voice of experience. Sadly, however, acceptance can be as hard to achieve as forgiveness. I’m glad you’re there. My mom is the one with cancer and due to memory issues, she’s not really”fighting” either. She doesn’t understand her situation enough to fight so she blissfully goes through each day just enjoying life. When she was diagnosed. 10 years ago (pre-memory issues), her doctor said something which comforted me. He told us to not think of cancer as a death sentence, more like simply a chronic illness like diabetes or heart disease. While both of these can still be scary to have, most of the time they don’t come with an expiration date. Facing something that “feels” curable or controllable definitely gives you a more positive attitude which is what we all need.

  5. Ruth

    Jo, this is a great step to achieve – to accept what is happening, do all you can for yourself, appreciate the life you have, AND encourage others to appreciate their lives too. That statement of yours, “I’ve learned, asking others for help, actually helps others feel good that they are helping you” is SO TRUE!! That also gives others ideas and ways to reach out to you and to anyone in their lives that has difficulties with living.
    Thank you for this post.

  6. Debbie B

    Beautiful post, Jo. You sound so peaceful and calm. You are right. You have a life to live so go live it and enjoy every minute. Blessings to you and the family. Hugs!

  7. Missy Reynolds

    What insightful words! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I so admire your perspective, strength, resilience, and wisdom!

  8. Donna T

    I agree with everything you wrote. My mom had lung cancer; my sister breast cancer. It is what it is. The Serenity Prayer is my mantra and has been for years. Some days I don’t silently recite it in my head and on really rough days it’s a continuous track through my head!

  9. Elle

    An amazing writing today Jo. My parents each had cancer and as you say, accepted it as part of their lives.

    God Bless You and your family each and every day!!!

  10. The Eclectic Abuela

    Excellent post, Jo. I wish more people could read it, because many could benefit from your words. It isn’t about fighting but rather accepting and refusing to let it become the center of your life. It’s about saying, “Yes; I have cancer. I’m doing my best to make it go away, with my medical team’s help, but it is not all I am. Let’s go to a movie (or play with a child, or sew a quilt, or do the laundry, or go for a walk with the dog…).”

  11. Jan

    Beautifully said! I found out I have breast cancer in both breast. I never felt why me? I just know can’t aways be the other guy. So like you I will do want the doctors say and live. Prayers for you and your family.

  12. Connie

    I too came to a similar conclusion. I disliked the “HOPE” for a cure, slogan. I will be cancer free 14 years come March.

  13. Kim LeMere

    Jo, thank you for writing this and telling us why acceptance is not giving up. My sister died from lung cancer and she did everything that was asked of her and more and still she died. She also got to the point where acceptance of her diagnoses allowed her to continue to live her life, enjoy her life and yes, love her life. You said it so beautifully.

  14. Elizabeth Rodgers

    Well, I have a lot of thinking to do, I always thought that God and I helped others to “fight this cancer”. I thought people would have want support and help whether it is hugs, prayers, listening or a taco salad with sour cream. I never thought I was wrong. You have showed me a different way of thinking. I maybe very wrong. To fight or not. Thank you.

  15. Sheila Fernkopf

    Thank you for writing this post. You gave me a totally different perspective. I’ve had friends and family deal with their cancer for over 10 years and the cancer moving to different parts of their body as the years go. Your post helped me understand why my cousin continued in college and working …. she lived her life.
    Prayers continue for you and your family.

  16. Karen

    Wow! What an eye-opener! It is very interesting to hear your point of view. Thank you so much for being so open to sharing with us. My dad passed from cancer years ago and this is very enlightening to me. God Bless you and all your family!

  17. Mary Ann Mettler

    A very excellent post – makes one rethink our thoughts and the things we say. Thanks for your insight.

  18. Cheryl in Dallas

    Mind reader!

    When I started on the cancer journey, I, too, thought “I don’t get it. What does everyone mean by ‘fighting cancer?’” And 5 years later, I still don’t get it. For me, cancer is part of my journey. Because I know the Lord Jesus as my Savior, there is joy even in this part of the journey.

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

  19. Jay in Nebraska

    I agree. I know I accepted this philosophy when I was told I had stage 4 bone cancer that had spread it my liver, spleen and kidneys. The doctor told me what had progressed and I said It is what it is. It is beyond my control. I am going to go forward with what it is and live the best life I am capable at this time. I am not seeing this as quitting or losing but life. It is what it is. I can’t change it.

  20. Judy P.

    Thank you for this. I have long hated the implication that people who succumb to cancer didn’t fight hard enough. My brother died of cancer at 52. I know he wanted to live. I know that he fought as hard as he could.

  21. Lori Douglas

    Cancer helps us focus on who and what really matters. Today, I really enjoy our backyard trees color! It’s like viewing the world through new eyes. Much like seeing life as children do with excitement, wonder and unconditional love. Awareness amplified. I slow down and soak up the moment. Life is grand and I relish in the loving relationships I have. Glad you are not fighting cancer but living “eyes wide open” life.

    Living a Christian life leads to many lessons. One colleague told me that I gave her inspiration just being at work during treatment. I was just trying to make it through the day… literally.

    You don’t walk alone Jo. Your kindness, love and inspiration flow through your quilts, blog and the people whose lives you touch. How grand is life!

    Prayers and peace to you and yours!

  22. Judy

    Thanks so much for these words! We don’t have cancer in our lives but these words certainly can be applied to our dementia journey

  23. Janine

    I started reading your blog years ago because it was about quilting and you always made quilts in my comfort zone (colorwise, not talent/creative wise). Today’s post is one of the reasons I have stayed with you. You always cover & say the wisest things of anyone I know! I derive such peace after reading you and just want to thank you for sticking with your blog-for the rest of us!!! Love, hugs & prayers to you & the family.

  24. Tracey

    I love this post. This is inspiring and I wish everyone who has cancer would read it. Thoughts and prayers for you and your family.

  25. Karen P

    You are so right, Jo. Whether it’s cancer or some other chronic illness you just can’t let it control you. After more than 10 years with my chronic illness I finally came to that point. You are a smart woman to figure it out early on. I keep you in my prayers each and every day. Keep on doing what you are doing. Life is precious.

  26. Linda White

    Although I don’t have cancer, my sister did and is a survivor for 6 years. My niece also and we lost her.
    I don’t think by “fight” it necessarily means all those negative things. I suppose it is what one means by the word itself. You use the tools given you to use in your “fight”; treatments, healthy choices, acceptance, living your best life and all the other things.
    I believe acceptance is key in our journeys. When I was diagnoses with chronic pain and fibromyalgia, one of the first things I had to learn is that it is part of me, it is my life. When one looks at pain and other things as “the enemy” attacking us from without, we automatically give up what little control and influence we can have over our lives. Once I accepted that the pain was part of me, accepted it as mine, then I could begin to exercise some control over it. So yes, I no longer ‘fight’ my health issues, I do all I can to make the best life I can. But my pain won’t kill me. I am not “fighting for my life”. And I think that’s where the term came into usage in re; fighting cancer.
    In general I feel like the combative, aggressive, negative overtones are taking over in our society and I agree with you that life can be, and needs to be all the good things you talk about. So thank you for your words of wisdom, and for sharing your thoughts, family and quilts with us. You remain a beacon of good things and good sense! Hugs and love,

  27. Janet R

    I never considered myself to be a cancer patient, although technically I was. Surgery took care of it and I didn’t have to do chemo or radiation. So other than the checkups every 6 months, there was no further treatment.

    On the other hand, I have chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and spinal stenosis. They affect me every day of my life. I had to realize I could do what I could do when I could do it. Some days are good, some not so much. Your acceptance is along that same path. Love and hugs

  28. Joanie

    Jo, these are wise words. My 44 year daughter died from breast cancer 18 months ago. As I have learned to live with this loss, my ongoing thought is that cancer is a journey. Based on everything I have read since my daughter’s death, thinking about cancer as you so eloquently expressed really helps physically and emotionally. Continued positive wishes for you and your family.

  29. donna

    thank you for putting words to my feelings. I say DITTO to everything you said!!
    Blessings. Keep on keeping on.

  30. Noemi

    When I think of “Why me?” it’s usually to wonder why I have been so blessed by our Lord! I know I live in a fallen world where there are so many trials and griefs. Yet I’ve still been blessed through them. So now I will learn something new, how to treat and talk to those who are living with cancer. We’ll have something in common!! Thank you Jo for sharing your constructive thoughts. May God continue to bless and strengthen you.

  31. Toni

    I read your blog nearly everyday but have never commented before. As a 19-year stage III breast cancer survivor, I totally agree with what you’re saying. I came to many of these same conclusions, but only after I processed all the various emotions one has. I think we go through the same steps as in the grieving process. I had the “why me” thought for a while, and replayed my life in my head so many times, trying to pinpoint what I did “wrong” to deserve this. One night, I thought if not me, then who? At that point, I realized I would not pick someone else to have this, so why not me? I also firmly believe that Sh*t Happens, as the saying goes, and that it’s not part of some overall plan of God’s or whomever. It also bothers me when people “congratulate” me on my survivorship. I don’t feel like I can take credit for the randomness by which I survived but others didn’t. My 37-year-old cousin with 2 young children died of breast cancer the week after I was diagnosed, and I know it wasn’t because she didn’t “fight” hard enough, etc. Again, just the luck of the draw. There but for the Grace of God go I.

  32. Donna W.

    What an attitude to have about life in general, Jo, but I especially like it in respect to a cancer diagnosis. I have lost loved ones to cancer and agree with you that they were not quitters. I learn so much from you about looking at life in a different way. Thank you for your wisdom, Jo.

  33. Linda Rouse

    I can hardly see to write this as I am crying. I have had a very rough week with my mom. She was diagnosed 5 years ago with liver cancer. Right after my dad died and then her dog. I am the oldest of 4 siblings. I am the only one that doesn’t work. I am disabled. But I never complain due to my mom’s prognosis. Doc gave her 6 months to live. She’s still here. She has said she is fighting to live and she has. She has had quality of life all these years. We, as a family chose no chemo. Best decision we ever made. Oncologist calls her his walking miracle. I can’t put in words how much I love my mom. She is the strongest, kindness woman I know and hope to be just a little like her. She is only 81 but I see her as 60. (My age ) I often think I wish it was me than her. There I said it. She probably would slap me in my mouth if she heard me say that. But, I am going to share this blog with her. I think she is doing acceptness she just doesn’t know that. I read everyone of you ladies story. I makes scense.
    I thought I was going to loose her this past Thursday. But as usual she bounces back to live. She chooses life!! We know her tumors are growing faster now. She had to have a drain put in her. She had to learn how to clean around it, flush it with a syringe and tape herself up. I don’t think I could do it. She is in a lot more pain since August. They do not know how to treat her pain. She says, that’s ok, then I can still drive to meet my friends for lunch. My world will crumble when she dies. She is my best friend. My rock.

  34. Sharon Runyan

    Thank you for the positive attitude. I have some health issues going on right now & really needed this today.
    You have helped me realize & accept that at 63 years old, I am now having to use a walker.
    You are definitely an inspiration!!!❤️✝️

  35. Susan the Farm Quilter

    Live your life on your terms. With God as your solid rock, you show your faith in Him on your blog all the time. I’m sure you are being watched by your medical team and they are being witnessed to by the way you are handling everything. Acceptance is the healthy place to be to life your best life!

  36. Shep

    This is so perfect. Fighting cancer is an awful aphorism. It leaves people feeling that if only they had tried harder…..Live on with cancer. It’s there, it’s being addressed. But you need to be present in your life. Love you and your family. Thank you for all that you give me.

  37. LeeAnne Pepper

    I have tears in my eyes as I write this, because you said what I haven’t been able to say. I stopped treatment of my cancer because it doesn’t destroy it. All the chemo, pills, etc. just keep it at bay and I got to a point where I just wanted to enjoy the time I had left, not feel like sick all the time only to arrive at the same conclusion. And once I did that, I was able to smile, and quilt and have overnights with a 3 year old. I can shop with my mom, who is my rock. I can share a good meal with my husband and hear about his day.

    Thank you. Thank you sharing this side of the “fight”. I’m happier accepting than I ever was fighting.

  38. Marcia

    Dear Jo: Amen to all of your comments. Cancer is a journey that can bring you closer to people and closer to God. I am two years out from breast cancer surgery (double mastectomy–guess what they found cancer on the other side that was still super early!) and learned so many things that I probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise–about being more accepting of others, slowing down, living in the grace and goodness of God, not fearing death, relishing all of the wonderful blessings in my life, being thankful to just be alive. Grace and peace to you! Prayers are with you and so is God every step of the way!

  39. Ann D.

    There was a really good book of essays published a few years ago called “Pink Ribbon Blues.” And it’s basically about how marketing took over cancer. Some of it is positive, in that cancer wasn’t talked about openly for a long time. Some of it is negative in that it uses the language of conflict and fighting when talking about the disease. I found it very eye-opening. I read it when my mom was diagnosed w/ breast cancer.

  40. Annette

    God bless you. You articulated what I couldn’t find words for when I was diagnosed back in 2008.
    Three words that I did not want to describe me were fighter, victim and survivor. I could,’t and still can’t tell you why those words did not fit.
    The things I could do to remove the cancer, I did. The things I could not change, I let go of.
    There is peace in acceptance. It doesn’t mean defeat. It just means we meet the challenges of life with grace, faith and dignity.
    There may be someone reading this that needs to fight, to battle to the evil, whatever that is. And that’s OK too. We each have struggles in life and need to choose how to deal with them so that they do not control our lives.
    Thank you for writing this. You perfectly spoke the thoughts I couldn’t.

  41. Mary H.

    I so agree with what you have said. My husband, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1998 had the same attitude.

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