Fighting is Not How The Silver Pen Rolls

Now that I’m a week out from my last radiation treatment and my brain has adjusted to the altitude of Aspen (sort of), it’s time to go out on a limb and broach the topic that has been on my mind since the time of diagnosis, but that I haven’t brought up because it’s…well, it’s anti-establishment – in a BIG way.

Here goes:

I have never seen my journey with FBC (F-bomb Breast Cancer) as a “Fight”.


There. I said it.

I’ve had mentioned this to a few people who responded either by gasping or by boo-hooing my belief, assuming that my outrageous notion is a by-product of chemotherapy or pain meds or just the general delirium that comes with a cancer diagnosis.

However, I still fervently believe that I have never been engaged in a fight with breast cancer.

Has this been awful? Yes. Has this been a struggle?  Yes, of course.  Has this been a long haul?  Absolutely.

But, I have still never engaged in a “fight”.

Omnipresent in our culture are cancer “fighting” messages, e.g., “cancer fighting strategies” and “cancer fighting foods” and “cancer fighting treatments”. People told me to “fight” or “keep fighting” or “fight the good fight” as if I were Muhammed Ali.

Even though it always made/makes me cringe, I fully acknowledge that these “fighting” wishes come from very well-meaning people, intending to encourage me and give me strength throughout the journey.

Frankly, the thought of “fighting” makes my stomach turn.  Quite simply: I’m not a fighter.

Now, that’s certainly not to say that I’m passive.  Far, far from it. In fact, the image of myself as passive makes me laugh out loud.  I’m assertive. Strong. Determined. Forthright. I stand up to bullying and don’t take S**T from anyone.

I know quite a few people who are “fighters”.  They love to pick a fight and then go full throttle. Yelling. Screaming. Smoke coming out of their ears.  Fighters. You look at them and it seems as if they are seething, just waiting for the next battle. Always one word away. I have never in my life understood how someone could live this way.

If I haven’t thrown you over the edge and you are still reading, please allow me to clarify that fighting is very different from the emotion of anger. Anger is, I believe, a very healthy emotion.  When I’m really pissed about something (which does happen on occasion), I acknowledge it, welcome it, thank it, and then politely ask it to leave. Anger isn’t something that I’m fond of holding for long periods of time.

So, if I’m not “fighting” WTF have I been doing for the past 9 months?

I’ve been harnessing energy. I’ve been finding Silver Linings and thinking positively. I’ve been laughing (at myself, mostly). I’ve been resting. I’ve been allowing the treatments to eradicate cancer from my body. I’ve been learning. I’ve been growing. I’ve been trying things that I’ve never done before (e.g., giving myself IV fluids, getting fitted for a custom bustier bolus, writing).

Fighting, to me, has a tremendously pejorative connotation.

Why add insult (fighting) to injury (cancer)?

My philosophy is to focus on the positive and thereby render  the negative inconsequential.

And another thing.  In all of my years as a cardiac nurse, never once did we (nurses, doctors, etc.) tell patients with cardiovascular disease to “fight”.

Why, I wonder, are people with cancer cancer the only patients who are told to “fight”?  I’ve never understood this.

As a hospice nurse who cared for many cancer patients at the end of their life, I wondered whether were they somehow to blame because they “lost the fight”? It almost seemed punitive to suggest that they “lost”. As if they had something to do with it.

It was never suggested that patients with vascular disease, for example, “lost” some kind of “battle”.

This is certainly no right or wrong here.  Each person chooses how they will handle their own circumstances and disease process.  My fundamental hope is that no matter which road is chosen that you are able to find Silver Linings (inside the ring or out).

The most important thing in illness is never to lose heart.

~Nikolai Lenin


Leave a comment


  1. Kelly says

    Completely connected with this…I went through this same journey starting April 2010 right after my 40th birthday (happy b'day, huh?!) My daily intention was to welcome the distance from work (OBGYN physician) and enjoy the time spent with my kids (now 6&8), even when all I could manage was snuggling with them in my bed watching movies. Oh, and I also filled the less-healthy feeling days watching Glee! I hated the sentiments of "Fight the fight!" "Really? I'm just doing what my doctors tell me."
    I have loved reading your posts (just started 3 days ago & think I'm already caught up); thank you for sharing.

  2. Mary Beth says

    You capture thoughts I have had but never said out loud about the whole "fighting" cancer messages everywhere. Once again, you give a voice to inner thoughts…..Thanks!

  3. Nancy says

    Thanks, Hollye!
    I never understood the term " battle with cancer.."
    WTF? If you aren't strong enough to "win" then you are a loser?
    There is already so much new age self blame…
    What a steaming pile!

  4. Linda says

    Wow. I couldn't agree with you more. I don't have the energy to fight anyway. But I do have the energy to process, get educated about my disease, get angry, and appreciate the positives. So glad you are feeling better.

  5. Catie says

    You didn't strike me as the fighting type either :) more the, kill it with kindness and love type. You're always an inspiration! All my love!


    Ps – I'll see you in AUGUST!!!

  6. says

    Once again you have given me a new thought process. While I have lived my life wearing some of the best rose colored glasses, I have used the "fight" encouragement. I do believe I will now find something better to suggest.

    So happy you and yours are enjoying your Aspen adventure. and…. GO FINALLY FIVE …. what a great out look she has already ! !

  7. Karlene Fredericks says

    Well spoken Hollye, your positive attitude exists clear to your core. I admire your belief that negative thoughts are not healthy and "fighting" anything certainly puts a negative spin on things. You are absolutely correct why do we encourage a person with cancer to engage in a battle, when we should be encouraging them to rid themselves of negative thoughts in order to become healthier?
    This post was rather enlightening to the meaning and or connotation of words we commonly use without thinking of the true impact words can have. As Always Hollye, you have inspired!
    Wishing you numerous SL's today!