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Redefining ‘Survivor’

by Nicole Malato

Inspiration image

Nicole Malato with her son

There are different definitions of “survivor.” Until recently, I had always thought it was someone who “beat cancer” and went on to remission for many years. Now I am learning that using that definition minimizes the experiences of other survivors and prevents those who have earned the title from rightfully using it. I am embracing the fact that I am indeed a survivor already. I have overcome the following obstacles to earn this honorable distinction:

I survived calling my doctor and saying, “I found a lump.”

I survived three mammograms, infinite ultrasounds, and four biopsies in a three hour period.

I survived the shock of hearing the words “you have cancer.”

I survived telling my family about my diagnosis, knowing I was ripping out their hearts in the process.

I survived the battery of tests to determine what type of breast cancer I had and where it was.

I survived waiting for the results, which was infinitely more grueling than the actual tests.

I survived multiple medical consultations and feeling like the world had now seen my upper body, which was difficult for someone who was modest.

I survived making the toughest decision I have ever had to make – what surgery to have and what treatment course to follow.

I survived a double mastectomy with tissue expanders, and I healed well.

I survived having surgical drains in for two weeks.

I survived my first expansion and my port insertion.

I survived wig shopping and finding a dress for a wedding that looks great and covers my port.

I survived my first round of chemo, and I’m in the process of recovering for round two.

    I still have many trials to go through, but I will do so with my head held high. There is no other way. I am proud of my accomplishments and know I will continue to shine. I will keep on surviving.

    ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

    Nicole Malato is a breast cancer survivor and a 34-year-old mom living in Toms River, NJ.

    This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2012.