Cancer is complicated. And being a survivor can be complicated, too — confounding, confronting, and confusing.

Even starting with the word itself. It can be confusing to know exactly what is meant by cancer survivor. So for the first time in the 18 years of my own survival, I looked up the definition on the American Cancer Society website.

Survivor can have several different meanings when applied to people with cancer. Some people use the word to refer to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. For example, someone living with cancer may be considered a survivor. Some people use the term when referring to someone who has completed cancer treatment. And still others call a person a survivor if he or she has lived several years past a cancer diagnosis. The American Cancer Society believes that each individual has the right to define his or her own experience with cancer and considers a cancer survivor to be anyone who defines himself or herself this way, from the time of diagnosis throughout the balance of his or her life.

I love the idea of survivors defining ourselves.

Over the past few decades, being a cancer survivor has changed from something hidden or private to a badge of honor. Today the label signifies a warrior, a source of constant inspiration, always brave and upbeat, walking to raise money or climbing a mountain.

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