To call cancer survivors “fighters” is like calling birds “flyers” – it’s so fundamentally true, but obvious. It can easily come off as merely a cliché.
And yet, having watched a sister and a dear friend and work colleague as they battled cancer and survived over many years, I believe the analogy bears repeating and describing in greater detail.
In honor of everyone who has battled and survived this brutal foe, I offer these 8 characteristics that cancer survivors share with boxers (this is a good time to hum the theme from “Rocky”).
Credit to sports columnist Steve Silverman, whose article, “8 Characteristics That Make a Great Boxer,” provided the inspiration for this blog.
- Quickness. Surviving cancer benefits from early detection. The best way to beat cancer is to get ahead of it. That means genetic testing, mammograms, prostate checks, skin checks, and quick consultation with a doctor if something seems not quite right.
- Punching accuracy. Fortunately, medical research is yielding more specific, more personalized, and more potent cancer treatments. Learn about the latest and most accurate treatments available for your diagnosis.
- Punching power. Chemotherapy sucks. A mastectomy takes a huge physical and emotional toll. It’s easy to stick your head in the sand and avoid the hard choices. But survivors hit cancer with everything they’ve got.
- Defense. The best defense is a good offense. That means eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, and scheduling genetic testing and regular screenings.
- Conditioning. Silverman points out that boxers train for endurance. Cancer survivors know that cancer is a sneaky and persistent foe, and they prepare emotionally for the long fight. They never give up.
- Discipline. Beating cancer demands constant vigilance. That means never letting your guard down, never putting it on a back burner, always being ready for the foe’s next move – while at the same time somehow embracing and enjoying life.
- Guts. Most of us will never know the resolve it takes to face down cancer and continue to fight when you’re puking your guts out, sweeping your hair off the floor, and picking yourself up and getting through the day when your energy tank is on empty. That takes world champion-level guts.
- Intelligence. Silverman compares a great boxer to a chess master, anticipating moves, using your own strengths, and capitalizing on your adversary’s weaknesses. Similarly, cancer survivors use intelligent strategy – surfing the web, keeping up with the latest research, getting second opinions, paying attention to your body, and building a support system around you.
I’m humbled to dedicate this blog post to Arlette Braman and Marilyn Siets – two of the fiercest fighters and most inspirational survivors I know; and to my beloved late friend Marsha Koppe, who fought the good fight with spirit and determination.