Cancer Survivors Day
National Cancer Survivors Day® is an annual, worldwide Celebration of Life that is held in hundreds of communities throughout the United States, Canada, and other participating countries. Participants unite in a symbolic event to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive.
What is a cancer survivor?
When does someone with cancer start to become a survivor? Some believe it begins at the moment of a diagnosis of cancer; for others the notion dawns on them more gradually as they progress through their treatment. There are some who believe you must have reached or be approaching the “magic” five years in remission before you can start to consider yourself a survivor (for more on this see Defining Cancer Survivorship).
I am also aware from conversations with many women with a history of breast cancer, that there are some who do not like the term survivorship so just think of the term “living with cancer” if that is better for you.
The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship state that “a cancer survivor is anyone with a history of cancer from the time of diagnosis and for the remainder of life”. Similarly the Lance Armstrong Foundation define it as “from the time of diagnosis through the remaining years of life”.
The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation is encouraging a greater commitment to resolving the issues of cancer survivorship.
The accomplishments of modern science are evident in the ever-growing cancer survivor population. Addressing the poorly understood needs of these survivors is becoming a formidable challenge.
Researchers in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions have studied the lives of breast cancer patients following chemotherapy and found that their environments and available support systems help determine the quality of their lives.
“A lot of times people get mentally and emotionally ready to deal with chemotherapy and they receive a lot of support during that time,” said Stephanie Reid-Arndt, an assistant professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “Then they go home and everyone feels like it’s over, but the patients still have worries and fears about the changes they’ve been through and what it means for the future.”
In a paper published in 2008, Natalie Doyle observed that “there has been little progress in the conceptulization of cancer survivorship, despite the signficant rise in the number of cancer survivors”. She believes that cancer is “a life-changing experience, with a duality of positive and negative aspects unique to the individual experience but with universality.”
Although there is nothing formal planned here in Ireland, that doesn’t mean I can’t have my own little celebration. I will celebrate by being grateful that I can do the ordinary things – like go for a walk today, have a nice coffee with fresh homemade muffins, prepare and enjoy Sunday lunch – for it was the ordinary things I longed to be able to do again when I was ill during my chemo. It took cancer to teach me the beauty of such ordinary things.
We don’t really need to set aside a special day to celebrate our survivorship but it is good to have a day when we unite together in our appreciation of our collective survivorship – although I am lucky to be able to that every day here on the blogosphere. And if you are wondering what the image at the top of this post is..it is my word cloud of what survivorship means to me and those who help me through.
What does cancer survivorship mean for you? And what words would appear in your survivorship word cloud? Please share your thoughts below.