Letter: Proud and Grateful Cancer Survivor
To the Editor:
The Prouty, a fantastic Upper Valley tradition for more than 30 years, has become a significant and very meaningful community event, as the many Prouty articles in the July 14 Sunday Valley News attested. It is a great opportunity for riders, walkers, volunteers, supporters, families and friends, and people who want to let the Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the wonderful staff at Dartmouth-Hitchcock know just how grateful we are to have such a facility in our community. It is a celebration of many battles (yes, “battles”) won and lost against that most formidable foe, which cancer truly is, as author Siddhartha Mukherjee termed it in his Pulitzer-Prize book, The Emperor of All Maladies. Those who participate at any level in the Prouty share that community sense and celebrate lives touched by cancer, including those “survivors” who have fought and continue to fight this many-headed monster.
And so it was a real disappointment, a real balloon-buster, to read Kathryn Stearns’ column in the July 13 Valley News, taking issue with the metaphor of “battling cancer” and the term “cancer survivor.” (And contrary to what Stearns may believe, yes, we also do use the term “heart attack survivor” and “stroke survivor” — so what is the problem with using the term “cancer survivor”? “Survivor” replaced the earlier unfortunate “cancer victim.”) Stearns’ column was a downer to read on the beautiful morning of this glorious community event honoring those who are fighting the good fight, or have lost, or have made it through often difficult treatments to “survive.” Other than her objection to the notion of “cancer survivor,” it’s not obvious what Stearns’ point was or why the Valley News chose to print her column on Prouty Day. Stearns can “chafe” at the word “survivor’” and not embrace it personally if she prefers not to, but like many others in this community, I am a proud and enormously grateful cancer survivor who owes my life to the wonderful Norris Cotton Cancer Center and the people there who work tirelessly to make all of their patients become “survivors.”