National Cancer Survivors Day (NCSD) is Sunday, June 5, 2016.
According to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation, “It is a CELEBRATION for those who have survived, an INSPIRATION for those recently diagnosed, and a gathering of SUPPORT for families.”
Who Is A Cancer Survivor?
The foundation defines a survivor as anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of their life. So this may be you in that first painful and frightening moment when you have just been told that the hazy spot on your x-ray is, in fact, cancerous.
It may be you in the midst of a treatment that can be as simple as a quick incision and a band-aid or as complex and challenging as a major surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and/or one of the wondrous array of new, less onerous treatments changing the course of cancer treatment.
It could be you recovering from a course of treatment trying to get your life back to normal, or, possibly, a new normal. It could be you whose cancer has been in remission for years, but who still lives with that lingering awareness that the cancer could return.
Or it could even be you who fought a heroic fight and are losing, or who chose not to put yourself through the rigors of cancer treatment and who now face your own death.
In America, more than 14.5 million people are alive after being diagnosed with cancer. That number is rising as breakthrough and incremental diagnostic and treatment tools are discovered, or as treatment regimens are refined through careful research.
That number represents about 1 in every 20 Americans, so the chances are high that you or someone you love is surviving cancer!
Self-Care Tips For Cancer Survivors
If you are a cancer survivor, it can be tempting to push down the feelings that may arise, but emotions are meant to move, to be experienced and processed.
Unresolved emotions have a way leaking out in problematic ways such as loss of sleep or unexpected outbursts of anger. Journaling or talking to someone who can hear your story can help you deal with your emotions in healthier ways.
Journaling Or Keeping A Diary
I recommend taking two perspectives when you journal:
First as the writer who can say whatever you need to say, unedited. This allows your emotions to emerge in their natural and sometimes surprising state, revealing what has sometimes gone unrecognized.
The second perspective is as a reader who can recognize the information that is emerging and make choices as to how to deal with it.
This may be as simple as calling a doctor to ask a question that has been troubling you, or as complex as rewriting your story in a way that empowers you in the face of your challenges. The rewriting accepts the facts as they exist, but allows reinterpretation of events to alter their meaning.
For example, “What did I do to deserve this?” can be reframed as, “This is not something I caused, but life sometimes faces us with big challenges. I choose to learn the lessons this experience has to offer me.”
Talking With Friends/Relatives Or Finding Support Programs
You have a variety of choices of people to talk to, though some may be better at hearing your story than others. Sometimes family and friends can be the resources. But sometimes, they are dealing with their own reactions to your illness.
In support groups you may find people who are going through a similar experience to yours who can help you feel less isolated. Or you may find someone who has walked your road and can help you along the way. Or you may be the one celebrating your own recovery by offering support to others.
Organizations such as ‘Can-Care’ will pair you with a trained volunteer who has had a similar kind of cancer and treatment to yours. This one-on-one relationship can give you someone to call when you are struggling, or when you are celebrating a victory.
For some cancer survivors, working with a therapist who can be present as your tell your story can be valuable. A therapist can also offer coping tools for whatever step you are taking. I would be honored to walk with you on this journey.
The Surprising Gifts Of Cancer
My own experience has taught me that cancer can actually come with gifts. There is the deep gratitude and connection that comes from a community of love and support.
There is the awareness of the precious gift of being alive. Wherever you are in your cancer journey, I recommend that you do not go through it alone.
Get support from the resources mentioned above, including yourself. Feel your feelings, journal and ask for help. Experience your gratitude for the gift of life, reframe your story in a way that empowers you. And, above all, live now!