Illustration: Brian Stauffer

I Didn’t Beat Cancer, My Doctors Did

When well-meant words do harm.

Stanford Magazine
Apr 10, 2017 · 5 min read

By Brooke Vittimberga

“You’re so strong.”

I survived because I was forced to survive, not because I was strong.

It seemed easier for most of them to pretend that I had a modicum of control over my survival than to face the reality that I did not. To me, the statement that I would survive because I was strong was offensive because it implied that if I died, it would be because I was weak. But more important, it felt like people were refusing to consider the reality that I truly had no control over whether I lived or died, instead pretending that my strength would somehow overcome the cancerous cells spilling out of my bone marrow and into my blood. I didn’t get a choice in whether I faced my mortality, but others did. They were choosing not to face it with me. I felt alone.

Courtesy Brooke Vittimberga, ’17

Stanford Magazine

A Publication of the Stanford Alumni Association

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