Thanks for Survivors

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

NOVEMBER 28, 2017

On Thanksgiving day, I wrote about wonderful women and loss and gratitude. Apparently Susan Gubar was having similar thoughts and wrote this lovely essay for The New York Times.

She writes about the trouble and problems in our country and in the world and the ways that we, as cancer survivors, bring a special perspective. We know about trouble, and we know that we are living only one variety.

Here is the start and a link to read more:

Giving Thanks for Survivors


Looking at television this past year, I sobbed at the sight of Nazis on the streets of Charlottesville. I don’t remember crying over the terrible cancer diagnosis back in 2008. Living with the disease for almost a decade has made me more susceptible to the sorrow and the pity of unrelated but potentially horrific suffering. Oh, I realize, I am still learning from my deceased parents.

At the time of my ovarian cancer diagnosis, I was numb, a wooden automaton. Mechanically wading into treatment as into a limitless ocean, I submitted to what the doctors decreed. The pounding whitecaps followed — surgeries, chemotherapies, radiological drains, reoperations — before researchers plucked me up and pitched me into a haven, where I slowly caught my breath. The miraculous efficacy of a drug in a clinical trial continues to extend my existence. I have always shunned the identity “cancer survivor.” Wary of language that obscures the ongoing threat of a mortal disease, I know that I may not survive cancer; at any moment, it might recur and kill me. Nor can I take credit for my ongoing life.

But now I find myself alarmed … less about an always possible recurrence and more about our country being overtaken by hateful forces. I am frightened about the fragility of the rule of law, of the institutions and agencies upon which we rely, scared about the most endangered members of our society: racial and ethnic and religious minorities, the disabled, immigrants, gay people, and children as well as adults coping with ruinous diseases — precisely the groups targeted by Hitler. Undoubtedly, some of the mounting anxiety derives from my family history.

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