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"Fighter" verbage and my confused feelings


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My Mama was a fighter. She had grit. She was the spunkiest, take no BS, woman that I have ever known.

But my Mom's cancer took her fast. She only made it 8 months past diagnosis even with treatment. The doctor's prognosis was 22 months with treatment, 9 without.

When Mom was referred to hospice we thought we'd have some good time left with her. Two days later, she was very hard to rouse, four days later she was nearly unresponsive, and for her last two days she was in a coma. Her death came on us like a freight train.

When people have cancer, or die from it, it seems like there is always commentary: "He's a fighter." "He's so tenacious, I know he'll beat this." When the dying process is slow and alertness is high until the end people always attribute it to a fighting spirit.

I know my Mama was a fighter. I know she was. And she fought her cancer valiantly. She was always so worried people would think she was a wimp, so she tried so hard not to complain...

But her decline happened so fast--am I supposed to believe that she wasn't as tenacious as I really thought? Is an 8 month fight against the beast any less valiant than a 2 year fight or a 4 year fight?

Are the last days really so telling of a person's spirit? Is the only reason a person lingers or stays alert because of their fighting constitution? I'm sure that's part of it... Did my Mom lack that, then?

I think and think and think of this....

The only thing that I can think of in the whole train of thought that helps really is this thought:

In a war, is the first man to be killed in the very first battle any less valiant, any less a warrior than the man who fights the whole war and dies on the last day? In my mind, a warrior is a warrior in a warrior.

But the 'fighter' words still sting me. Has anybody else felt this way?

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Your mom was a fighter. She was hit with a freight train, not a shopping cart. All the fight in the world is nothing in a hard knock such as that. It doesn't mean she was less of a fighter, she just didn't suffer as long as some. I am sure she gave it all she had and fully expected to beat 22 months. She had a new grandbaby and a family that loved her, there is NO WAY she ever just gave up.

Take care, Val. Be kind to yourself.



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I'm with Becky - survival time is not what defines a fighter. Your Mom had so much to live for and so much love to offer. There is no way she would have willingly given that up.

Val, my Mom was mostly unconscious for the last few weeks of her life. Try to think of your Mom as having hung on for as long as she could. That's how I think of my Mom. And, in my mind, that is what defines a fighter.

My best to you.


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Oh, Val....

Kel and Becky are right - I'm sure your Mom tried very hard to stay with you...there were so many things for her to look forward to. I truly believe that most people do give their all when fighting cancer, and that much of the time, the speed with which things happen is attributable to a variety of factors over which the patient might have very little control - things like response to treatment, the strength of the immune system and the rate of cell division of the tumours, and are in NO way a reflection of the strength of character, or 'fighting spirit' of the patient.

I cannot begin to imagine the fortitude required to face the day with a smile on your face when you've been handed a diagnosis/prognosis like our mothers were. To undergo treatments that made them feel sick and tired, with the knowledge that it likely wouldn't cure the disease anyway must have taken immense courage. My Mum stayed strong and positive when the rest of us were stumbling along in the dark - she never gave up, even close to the end, when she was deteriorating fast, we would find her making lists of complementary medicines and treatments that she wanted to try. And her biggest concern throughout the course of her illness was minimising the impact it had on us.

They're ALL fighters, Val. Just take a look in the mirror - where do you think you got YOUR fighting spirit??! You've had an awful lot to contend with in the last two years, and you're still here, lending support to the rest of us.....must be something in the genes...... :wink:



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I hear you loud and clear, Val! Yes, sometimes those words do sting because I know for a fact that if my husband wasn't at the top of the list of fighters, he was very close to it.

My thoughts are that some are fighters and some aren't. I think the only way to truly answer your question is to compare "fighters" to "nonfighters". And then you also have to define "nonfighters". A nonfighter, I think, is a person that is negative, despondent, won't even try to feel better, gives up, lays around in bed, complains and makes life miserable for everyone around them - and some even do this and still get treatment. So, in my opinion, anyone that decides to fight this disease with treatment, and those that decide to fight without treatment, but intend to live every day to its fullest, are 100% fighters.

So, what I'm saying is that those in the nonfighter group like I defined above, probably aren't going to last long because of the effects a negative psyche like that has on one's health. People like your mom, Don, Fay, TBone, David, Beth's Bill, Pat's Brian, etc., etc. were all great fighters, as are all the survivors that we have here living and breathing. Even most of the ones that choose to not have treatment but enjoy every minute of life are fighting in their own special way.

If I hear what you are saying, and I think I do because I've felt it, too, you are feeling that because of the emphasis put on this site about "fighting" that "fighting" is the solution. In other words, because some people have survived, they were stronger fighters than your mom. Am I close to getting it?

Val, fighting is NOT the solution. Nobody "fights away" a disease. There are tons of ways to fight disease with medicine, radiation, surgery, alternative methods, etc., even mental treatments like hypnosis, positive thinking, etc., but whether those treatments work better on one person than another is a luck of the draw. For example, someone said on this board this week that their mother said she was going to be the longest living survivor, yet she died. Well, guess what? Don said those exact same words, and he said it in a VERY LOUD VOICE, and I can tell you that HE MEANT IT! He died. It had absolutely nothing to do with fighting.

But here is one thing that I can say for certain, fighting to win does help a LOT in the survival process of any disease, and even in our own every day living. If we didn't fight, we would be drowned in depression and all kinds of aches, pains and even disease.

This is way too long, but please allow me a little more space here. I want to compare this to something else: faith and prayer. To me, it's similar because faith is faith in something or someone, and prayer is communication. Yet many people think that faith and prayer are the solution, so if your faith isn't strong enough or your prayer isn't good enough or often enough, then that's why you didn't survive or get your miracle. HOGWASH! To me, faith is faith in God - period! Regardless of what he does or doesn't do, faith in Him is that He is doing what is best, and prayer is communication with God and builds our relationship with Him. We pray and we "ask" God to do things for us because He told us to ask. Don't we tell our kids they have to "ask" before they can get in the cookie jar? Why? Because sometimes it's ok and other times it isn't good for them.

So, in summary (finally), we fight to live and just hope with everything we've got that it works for us as long as possible. And on the God thing, we praise him when we win, but we also praise him when we "think" we lose.

Love and prayers, Val!


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Val - you stated yourself you KNOW your mom was a fighter, please don't let this phrase hurt you. When people are hit with this disease it is not a fair fight. I do know where you are coming from though as my own mother is about to make the decision that she has had enough treatments. At first I was reluctant for her to give up her 'fight' but I know she is making the right decision for her. She is recognizing her limitations and fighting to have quality of life for her time remaining here on earth.

A warrior is a warrior. Our mothers will be remembered for the ways they fought throughout their lives, not just the end. And any casualty of this war makes them a hero regardless of how quickly it takes them. Sending you a Purple Heart for your mom.


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Val ~

I hear you too! If I had a nickel for each time somebody told me "Oh Pam, you have such a positive attitude and you are such a fighter! I know you will beat this!"

I always wonder what folks will say if my cancer can't be brought under control...will they say "Pam must have stopped fighting and cancer won?"

In my not so humble opinion ( :roll: ), there is no clear - cut winner or loser in our individual battles against cancer. Every person whose life is affected by a diagnosis of cancer does their absolute best to deal with the disease, based on what they want, need and can do.

Just getting up each morning and doing what you can/need/want to do is fighting the disease, be it if you are the patient or loved one. Sometimes that is all you can do. And really, that is enough.

My mom had SCLC w/brain mets in 1995. She decided to have surgery for the mets and the surgery gave her a couple more good months. At that time, I was frustrated with her because I wanted her to fight harder. But I knew she had to make her own decisions and I abided by them. When she died, I was angry with her for quite some time because she left me with a huge mess to deal with. I felt she gave up too easily - it was simpler to leave it all for Pam to deal with.

Now, 11 years later, I do understand that she fought her battle with cancer, in her own way, based on what she needed and wanted to do. I don't think that her decision to refuse more treatment showed her inability or unwillingness to be a fighter. It showed her strength, tenacity and courage to do it her way.

We all are warriors - whether you are the patient or a loved one. It's not the length of the battle, it is just the fact that we live.

I have a plaque in my kitchen that says "Everyday people can be heros every day".

I believe my Mom was a hero, both in her life and at the end of her life. I am willing to bet that your Mom was one too.

Hugging you gently,

Pam in FL

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*nodding* these are helpful thoughts.... Thanks all.

I guess my struggle comes not so much from ME not thinking she was a fighter--I've had my angry grief days when I haven't thought clearly on that... but I knew my Mom. It comes more from the language... I guess it hurts to think that others might not know that about her.

I had this thought as I was reading this... and it emphasized to me the fighter that Mom was... It became obvious to me that my Mom waited for me to have my husband home. He was out on the boat on a detachment when things got real bad and I had to put in a Red Cross call to get him home. Mom held on to see him get there to be with me. I know she wanted to know he was there so I Would be ok. When I thought of that, and read all the things said here already, I felt a great deal better. :)

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I am hearing you loud and clear and it stings me too. When I can I will tell you just how much my mom didn;t want to give up and it too ke her so fast in the end... we went from 3-6 months to less than a week so fast....

It hurts too much to even say it right now.

Prayers for your heart.

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This is how I try to look at it when I start to play that would of should of game over in my mind. He took my Dad very fast in the end. He went from enjoying a wonderful meal and party on New Years Eve to dying 5 days later. Was my Dad not a fighter? I know my Dad wanted to live so much. The Lord did not want him to suffer any longer, he did not want us to sit by his bedside for weeks or months watching him slip away. So in the end the Lord answered my prayers, just not in the way I wanted him to answer them.


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Bless your heart. God bless you and your mom...This disease is so terrible. We all try to find words to explain or help us each to understand this very un-understandable beast. I think we use "fight" as a verb that helps us...not them...we want to think every inch of possibility is being used - be it for 10 years, 8 months, 3 weeks, or 1 day...I am a religious kind of gal, and I feel like God's plan is in place, regardless of "fight" or "flight" or whatever other verbs we use. God bless you today, tomorrow, and always. Your mom is so lucky to have a daughter so strong, supportive, and loving.

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