Do you “fight” like a girl?

This entry was written by Randi Rentz. Randi finds writing about her breast cancer journey very healing:

Now that I’m three years out of Cancerville and my brain has adjusted from chemo brain (sort of), it’s time to broach the topic that has been on my mind since the time of diagnosis.  I haven’t brought it up because it’s…well, it’s anti-establishment – in a BIG way.

Here goes:  I have never seen my journey through breast canceras a “Fight”.

There. I said it. Do I feel better? You betcha (not to quote Sarah Palin, or anything).

I mentioned my feelings to a few friends early on in my treatment who responded either by huffing and puffing or by poo-pooing my belief, assuming that my outrageous notion is a by-product of chemobrain, pain meds, or just the general roller coaster of feelings that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis.

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

Is this terrible? Yes. Is this a battle that continues in my mind? Yes, of course. Definitely.

But, I still believe I was never in a “fight”.

Our culture is full of cancer “fighting” messages, e.g., ”cancer fighting foods” and “cancer fighting treatments or therapies” and “cancer fighting strategies” like getting enough sleep and exercise. While going through my treatment, people told me “fight the good fight” as if I were Mike Tyson.

Every time I heard the word “fight” it always made me flinch. I fully acknowledge that these “fighting” wishes come from very well-meaning people, aiming to cheer me on and give me strength while in my pink-bubble.

Quite simply: I’m not a fighter.

Now, that’s certainly not to say that I’m submissive. Far, far from it. In fact, the image of myself as meek makes me hysterical. I’m self-confident. Resilient. Strong-minded. Candid. I stand up to maltreatment and don’t take S**T from anyone.

In my life-time, I’ve seen many “fighters”. They love to pick a fight and then go full throttle. Shouting. Screeching. Smoke coming out of their ears. Fighters. You look at them and see foam coming out of their mouths. I have never understood how someone could live this way.

I truly feel fighting is very different from the emotion of rage or anger. Anger is, I believe, a very healthy emotion. You’re shocked, right? Well, keep reading. When I’m really fuming about something, which does happen from time to time, I acknowledge it, receive it, show gratitude, and then graciously ask it to go away. Anger isn’t something that I’m fond of investing in for lengthy phases of time. It gives me a stomach ache.

So, if I’m not “fighting” what have I been doing for the past 3 years?

I’ve been channeling my “get-up-and-go” and thinking positively. I’ve been giggling more (at myself, mostly). I’ve been putting my feet up. I’ve been learning to “let things go.” I’ve been making an effort to do things that I’ve never done before (e.g., writing).

Fighting, to me, has a tremendously derogatory undertone. Don’t you think?

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

My philosophy is to focus on the constructive components and make the negative or anger less significant.

And another thing. In my 6 years of helping my father through vascular and cardio disease, never once did I tell him to “fight”.

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

I always wondered if patients are somehow to blame because they “lost the fight”? It almost seems 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” like my father did.

There is clearly no right or wrong here. Each person decides how they will handle their own situation and ailment process. My primary expectation is that no matter which road is chosen that you are able to find peace inside the ring or out.

Do you, like Randi, find it difficult to associate breast cancer with battle-related terms? Why or why not? Comment here or on our Facebook page.

19 thoughts on “Do you “fight” like a girl?

  1. I have always felt EXACTLY the same way! I did not FIGHT my cancer. i worked hard to follwo the treatment protocols. i tried my best to be strong and positive throughout; failed from time to time and that’s okay. I walked through the journey with grace and mostly good humor. Thanks for putting words to my feelings…

  2. I am ten years out and just allowing myself to use the term ‘survivor’. I’ve never like the term “fight’ nor have I liked the term ‘survivor’.I wasn’t fighting. I was living as hard as I could. I called it fire walking. A fire walk of personal faith in myself that I could do it and that I could do it again and again in order to come out the other side. And I saw that those around me suffered greatly because they were more afraid than I was. I had protocols and treatments to keep me busy. I had a goal. All they could do was watch and cheer. When the treatment was done and I was pronounced “cured’ they all relaxed because they thought the walk was done. But it wasn’t. Every day I walk with it and every day I renew my personal faith in my ability to keep going. I did not just survive, I did much more than that.

  3. Great piece Randi!

    I have always said that to fight cancer, one needs to be a WARRIOR. That cancer is war. To make every attempt to fight it in every way possible, so it does not win, requires battling. And battling and war require soldiers behind you, to give your strength, and strength in numbers. So with that thought thread – I would tell my friends fighting cancer: “Cancer is war. You will be a warrior. I will be one of your soldiers and help you fight in any and every way possible.You will do everything you can to survive and I’ll be there for you.” This might mean helping w/their kids, grocery shopping, making a meal, or the simple acts of hand holding and a shoulder to cry on. This always felt right to me.You stand by, for and behind.

    I have watched dearly beloved friends and family die during this horrible cancer war. But as with your case, with some friends and family, I’ve enjoyed the markers of time gone by w/remission.

    All warriors fight their own battles in their own way. You should stand proud as you do, and use your weapons of choice, like your words and writing, to continue to heal yourself and help others. This is a position of strength and power on the front line. Guns don’t make a war. Education, treatment and willpower help do battle.The desire and will to be well, be treated and survive is foremost. Rally on with your writing!

  4. Randi,
    I couldn’t agree more. Anger gives me a stomach ache as well. To me, positivity and a “get her done” attitude, I feel, goes farther and personally feels better than a fight. It was a struggle, and I’m glad to know you made it to where you are today. I too have a difficult time calling myself a survivor. Maybe because I had stage 0 — how can you get excited about a number less than one? But I too went through surgery and radiation. I was the third person in my small clique of friends in the neighborhood to be diagnosed, and now another friend was just diagnosed, and will have to start chemo in two weeks. It just breaks my heart to see another friend have to go through this, but she is a super-positive person, and has a lot of friends and family support, so she will do well. There is a lot of power in positivity. Blessings to you, and all of us.

  5. Totally agree! I’ve also been uncomfortable with being ‘inspirational’ because I’ve been part of the fortunate to have survived (so far) almost 3 years after a Stage 2 diagnosis at age 39. Does that make those that are facing advanced stage disease uninspirational? Tricky topic and I love how you shared your feelings with so many of us! THAT is inspirational!

    Diane at

  6. I wonder if the “battle” terms weren’t coined by loved ones of those with a cancer diagnosis, as a way to feel some sense of power and control in a situation where they otherwise feel terribly helpless and powerless. Just a thought.

  7. Hi Randi,
    I think of my cancer as a challenge but not a war or a battle. I am doing the best I can each day with lots of love and support from family, friends and medical staff. I use imagery to help me picture me being healthier and images of war, battles and being under siege do not help.
    Love to all

  8. Hi Randi,
    Love how you have expressed your thoughts…. I think what it comes down to is individuality….. I have gone through breast cancer twice now in 11 years…. I am currently cancer free and loving life. For me the word fight is positive. It was me against the cancer in my body….. I don’t look at it as negative, I got through this journey through determination, will and positive energy…. sure I had a few down days, but overall I remained upbeat through all the chemo, radiation, surgery and then taking that same road once again… i have never let it get me down….. So for me, I choose to be a warrior who has fought a battle in my body….. I listened to music through chemotherapy, it soothes me and gives me energy. I worked out at the gym as many days as I could and when I couldn’t, i simply didn’t.
    I love muay thai boxing at the gym and pushing myself physically….
    Our individuality is what makes each one of us unique in this world…. cancer has made me appreciate all that I have and realize what is really important in life…… it has taught all of us …
    God bless you and continue on your writing journey!!!

  9. I’m wondering if we haven’t adopted the masculine way of looking at cancer treatment. “Fighting” does seem to resonate with men maybe more than with women. Personally, throughout my treatment and in the five years since I finished, I was turned off by any message that tried to tell me how I should feel. I didn’t want to be told, “first, you cry,” because I never did that. I hated being told to keep a positive attitude, which I heard ad naseam. And, like Randi, I didn’t feel especially combative. Really interesting thread, glad Randi started it.

  10. I don’t think there is any one right way to handle cancer.

    I personally liked the image of being a warrior, because when cancer made me feel weak and tired, I would relate to myself that it was because I was fighting an enemy. I didn’t usually feel angry, but passionate. I didn’t want to let cancer take me away from my children or husband, so I felt the need to fight to live.

    But if I could have just Zenned out and let it pass over, I might have conserved more energy.

    Thanks everyone for sharing your perspectives.

  11. I retired early from my job in order to stop the stress that was consuming my life. I, too, don’t like the word “fight”…felt I had enough in my job which may have contributed to my cancer in the first place. Now, I have learned to just live my life in as calm a way as possible around my treatments and do the things I love doing, i.e., spending time with family, travel, reading, etc.

  12. Facing a challenge – that is how I feel. Overcoming obstacles, finding the good in each day, learning how to choose our “battles”, learning what is important and what is fluff and not worth my time and efforts. Cancer is life-changing. It teaches one how to focus. how to accept one’s life as it is presented, and to make the best of it!

  13. Randi, I love the way you think! I’m not in a fight either, there’s enough violence in the world!. Instead, it’s more like a journey down a path I never chose voluntarily. But this trip taught me that I am surrounded by love. Remain true against “fighting” cancer. I feel the same way and as I read your story I found myself nodding in perfect understanding.

  14. I read that it’s helpful to imagine the chemo drugs containing little warriors that do battle against the cancer cells in your body, but when it came time for my first chemo infusion I sensed that the drugs were a golden light flowing into my body, washing away the cancer. Having researched my odds and options, I followed the course I felt confident in, and kept on going. Sure, I was scared and worried at times, but I didn’t want or need a battle going on in my body or mind.
    I heard someone say “Cancer may kill me, but I’m not going to let it ruin my day.” Five years out, I’m enjoying my days!

  15. this is my third bout with cancer….twice thymomas….tumor in chest…but this diagnosis was a big surprise….no one in my family had breast ca….was told this was a result of the radiation I had in ’91 as rx for the recurrent thymoma…..rarely occurs but apparently the medical world is beginning to associate the radiation with later cancers…things that make u go hummmm….would I use the term “fight” ….I m not sure….still too new…just had mastectomy in March…..right now I m concentrating on “surviving” , being tired and working long hrs…..

  16. I loss one cousin in an eleven year battle with breast cancer. And dang if I don’t find a my own flame when I moved into my own little place of solitude. I guess we were mean’t to be where we are and together. So, just recently, the tale of the tape is she had a tumor removed from her bladder and the options are to remove the bladder altogether. The Doc thinks it is confined right there. Am I in the wrong bunker ’cause this is a Breast Cancer World War or when breast cancer, if you’re lucky, leaves you alone and decides to break out elsewhere and the fight starts all over again. I wish I had the strength of some of these women, if not all, ’cause strength and weakness are usually kept hidden, to continue to rage against a enemy that seem’s to never tire. The fight goes on and my contribution is to reload the weapons and defeat this thing. Winston Churchill said, ” We Will Never Surrender.” I agree. And just maybe in the meantime, we will get to see another grandchild born or another son or daughter get married. I always exclude myself, Oh! Yeah! Maybe, we live to see a little more happiness in a new love just found.

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