National Cancer Survivor's Day

by Jane Ashley

Did you know that Sunday, June 2, 2019 is OUR DAY? It’s National Cancer Survivors Day®. For the last 32 years, thousands of cancer survivors across the world recognize their cancer history and connect with other survivors.

National Cancer Survivors Day Logo

National Cancer Survivors Day® is not only a time for each of to reflect on our personal history with cancer — it’s also a day when we draw attention to one of the world’s most serious diseases. This is a day when we educate others about the challenges every cancer survivor faces every day as a survivor. We hope that we can influence our leaders to do more to help find a cure, help survivors in their daily challenges and end discrimination in the workplace. 

What challenges do cancer survivors face?

According to the National Cancer Institute, roughly 5 percent of the U.S. population in 2019 are cancer survivors. That amounts to 16.9 million cancer survivors living today in the U.S. We are a big population, and we need to make our voice heard louder and stronger as our numbers grow. Earlier detection and more effective treatments have boosted our numbers. The number of cancer survivors is forecast to increase by over 29 percent over the next ten years … reaching almost 22 million survivors, just in the U.S.

What are some of the challenges that cancer survivors encounter after treatment?

Fear of recurrence. Fear is one of our biggest challenges – how do we move on with our lives while acknowledging that our cancer may recur or we may develop a second cancer?

Late-effect side effects. Many of us experience lingering side effects from our treatment, including chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), damage of radiation including stenosis (shortening, narrowing, scarring) of different areas of our body (including our esophagus and our vagina) and chemo brain.

Financial hardships. Many patients are left with medical bills to pay. Many patients have to retire or go on disability during and after cancer treatment. Lost wages and reduced productivity may last our lifetimes.

Difficulty finding new jobs after cancer treatment. Although it is illegal to discriminate against cancer patients and survivors, many of us have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Employers may be reluctant to hire a cancer survivor — what cancer patients lack in stamina, they make up for in wisdom and understanding — but many employers don’t realize the assets we’ve gained through our cancer experience.

Ongoing costs of scans and other tests. Medical care doesn’t end when we finish our treatment.

Continued access to healthcare. The Affordable Healthcare Act ensures that we can still purchase health insurance without a pre-existing clause. Survivors worry that future legislation may strike down this legislation.

Learning to Move Forward as a Cancer Survivor

Make Up

In spite of the challenges that we face, we cancer survivors are grateful to have survived. We learned so much about ourselves — that we were braver and stronger than we ever imagined. Our perspectives about what’s important has changed.

Yet, some of us struggle to aright our ship. After being wrapped up in the daily routine of treatment, lots of us aren’t quite sure how to fully embrace life again. Being a cancer survivor is akin to letting the “genie out of the bottle” — we now have a much deeper appreciation for life and for what’s truly important — we’ll never be able to take good health for granted again. We won’t waste a day feeling angry about what we can’t change. We now know what others don’t know; we’ve faced cancer, and we survived.

How can we live more fully? These “little tips” almost seem trivial or too obvious. But these tips into action, and you’ll be living life as a thriver. We didn’t go through all of the chemo, radiation, surgery and other stranger-than-fiction treatments just to survive. We endured what we had to do so that we could thrive.

Get over survivor’s guilt. There is no reason to feel guilty for surviving. We were fortunate. Our treatment worked. We don’t know the exact circumstances of another person’s diagnosis. Feeling grateful that we survived is the only way to move forward into our new role as a survivor.

Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that cancer was and still is a scary disease. But that with the help of your family and medical team, you came out on the other side.

Push yourself. We’re not talking about overdoing. But push yourself to get back into the swing of normal activities. Family get-togethers, a vacation, a concert, mini-vacations — even if you’re not sure that you’re ready, push yourself to reintegrate yourself in your past routine.

Take pride in your appearance. Cancer robs us of so much, and we didn’t always feel good about the way we looked during treatment. Take a few extra minutes on grooming in the morning. Buy a couple of new outfits. Even if you’re staying, try to look your best so that you’ll see yourself in the mirror as a surviving thriver.

New Hobby

Begin a new hobby. Immerse yourself in some new creative activity. Wood carving, quilting, art, singing in a community choir — whatever you’ve always wanted to try, begin now.

Don’t worry about tomorrow. If we aren’t careful, we’ll allow fear of recurrence to rob us of today’s joy. Most of what we worry about doesn’t happen. Whatever happens to us in the future, we can’t predict. So live in the present. Eat healthy and exercise … follow the recommendations of your medical team. It’s all that we can do.

Enjoy TODAY – OUR DAY – National Cancer Survivor’s Day 2019.

Let us help you celebrate today, go to our Pinboard at WhatNext and post a photo of you, by yourself, with your family, with a pet, before, during, or after treatment, it's all up to you! We just want to celebrate all of our Survivor Brothers and Sisters.

You can also go to our Facebook Page and post a photo there. 

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