Do Not Call Me Strong, I Survived Because I Had To

Aaron Anderson
Aaron Anderson


It’s a word that brings every former cancer patient to their knees. They tell you there is “No Evidence of Disease” and expect you to carry on with your life worry-free. Thankful that you made it through the difficult journey alive, because so many others do not.

But once you have been awoken to the fact that everything you love could be taken away in a moment, it’s hard to forget. You become painfully aware that those cancer cells could take control of your body, of your entire life and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

Everybody assumes that I am strong. To fight cancer, they assume it takes real strength and courage and other great qualities. But let’s be honest, I really didn’t have a say in the matter. I didn’t have a choice. You fight to survive. What other options are there?

The truth is, I am not brave. Or strong. Or fearless. The fear sometimes consumes me, and I find myself erratically checking my body for swollen lymph nodes five times a day. The fear that a scan or test will bring that ugly c-word back into your life.



As I go through the motions of my first screening, I get flooded with the emotions I first felt when I was diagnosed. The fear is there, always creeping back up when I start to feel okay. Just when I allow myself to imagine my life being a fairytale, marrying the man of my dreams, watching my son graduate from college, growing old and bitter and wrinkly…I remember that I had cancer at 23. I remember that it can be taken away from me, and I have no control over it.

And the fear of losing that sometimes just makes me want to close myself off to the world. If I have nothing to lose, the fear would go away, right?

Then I remember how lucky I am to have something worth losing. Something worth fighting for. I have a man who loves me despite my shortcomings, a family who is always there when I need them, a son who brings me endless joy. I am so incredibly lucky.

So I fake it. I create a website called “Emily is Fearless” and I pretend that I’m not scared. That the cancer doesn’t win. That the fear doesn’t win. Because even though it is there, even though I can feel it…I refuse to let it control my life for one more second.

My name is Emily.

I don’t have my shit together.

I don’t follow the rules.

And I don’t let my fear show.

(Except on the Internet, but that doesn’t count, right?) Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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