The thing I learned this weekend: cancer survivorship isn’t an honor. No matter what society, Nike, or others tell us about being strong ‘fighters’, we’re nothing compared to people like my friend Jason Brightfield; those who know they’re going to die, especially young. We’re also nothing compared to millions others who struggle against injustice be it political, social, sexual, gender-based, monetary, racial, or anything else. Cancer is often an injustice and may help grow us as people, but it doesn't intrinsically make us better people.
"Cancer" is a clonal population of cells that are no longer responsive to normal homeostatic controls from the organism at large. It isn't facing death. Cancer may cause one to face death....and the reaction to that experience of confronting one's mortality may in practice lead to making me or you a better person. But, what is the difference between me (got cancer, went to medical school, doing cancer research, etc), my grandpa who got cancer at an old-age and lived a long caring life, and Jason Brightfield who died in his mid-twenties from a childhood brain cancer (medulloblastoma for you medical geeks out there)? It isn't courage. It isn't how hard we fight. It is the time, circumstance, and nature of those cancer cells.