As I sat last weekend at our Relay For Life Kick-Off event, I listened to one of this year's Heroes of Hope for Nebraska. A breast cancer survivor, Nancy was speaking about her story and how she is hope for other cancer patients. She brought back memories of the Relay for Life Summit I had attended in Lincoln, NE in October 2012. There I witnessed a tongue cancer survivor speak through his "magic microphone" about his journey and how his grandson's friends were so very curious about why Mr. Mike needed that special device to speak. It brought back a flood of memories of my own Uncle who unfortunately did not survive tongue cancer back in the mid 1990s and how he used a special keyboard that spoke for him. These two speakers had a great impact on me as they proudly shared their stories with their audiences. It inspired me towards a new goal...to one day be a Hero of Hope, to publicly speak about my journey, and to give new hope to others.
Contemplating this goal, it occurred to me that there are three kinds of survivors:
The first kind of survivor is the one that is thankful to have beaten the disease, and often feels he or she is simply lucky. But that is the extent of their journey. They would rather put the whole thing behind them and get back to their old life...never speaking of it again. When asked about it, if the topic comes up which is rarely as they hide their battle deep inside, they admit it was something that they went through but would rather not talk about. Change the subject. End of story. The extent of their journey is kept secretly inside. We may never even know what kind of cancer they endured.
The second type of survivor is a bit more open. They are not ashamed of their battle and when asked, they will share some of the details...perhaps how sick chemotherapy made them and if they had radiation treatments or not. Generally speaking, they feel cancer sucked and are glad to be rid of it. We know their type of cancer and how long they have been cancer free. But little else. Perhaps they walk in a Relay for Life event and wear the traditional purple shirt for survivors, but neglect to fully engage.
And finally, there is the third type of survivor. One who wears her story on her sleeve, a yellow Livestrong bracelet, and a "Survivor" t-shirt with a colored ribbon. When the subject of cancer comes up, this Survivor shares the details (good and bad) of her journey, is open to questions, frankly mentions that her curls are not a perm, but how her new hair came in after chemotherapy. She shares that her sister was her bone marrow donor and saved her life. That her "new normal" is so much better than the old and that "Stronger" by Kelly Clarkson is her favorite song. Her new mission in life is to help others by sharing a positive attitude, a shoulder to cry on, and a frank statement to "never, ever, ever give up!" If you haven't guessed by now, this is the kind of Survivor I am. A "thriver" really. Cancer has changed my life for the better.
As my friend Joy Huber, stage IV cancer survivor states: "You can still be happy even if you have cancer."
Lisa Lathrop is an active WhatNexter, you can drop by her profile page at LisaLathrop and say hi.
Lisa's website is www.cancerkaleidoscope.com