Honoring All who are Living With, Through, or Beyond Cancer
June is the month for cancer survivorship awareness and National Cancer Survivor’s Day for 2019 is this Sunday, June 2nd. This marks a day and week ahead when many cancer survivors and their loved ones across the country will be celebrated in their communities through events and activities supported by cancer centers and other cancer support organizations. It is a time for honoring and supporting individuals, as well as their families and caregivers, who have bravely faced the challenges that cancer so often creates.
The term cancer survivor is not embraced by all, however it is a term that is commonly used to describe individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer, whether living with the disease or in remission. The official definition from the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Survivorship is as follows: “An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included in this definition.”
Cancer will impact most all of us at some point in time whether we receive a personal diagnosis or have a family member or friend with a cancer diagnosis. Cancer treatments have come so far over the past few decades and thankfully there are an increasing number of survivors every year due to early detection and improved therapies. As of January 2019, it was estimated that there were 16.9 million US cancer survivors, which is 5% of the population. The number is expected to rise to 21.7 million by 2029.
While a cancer diagnosis can be devastating, it can also lead to some incredible transformations in physical, emotional and spiritual health. I have had the honor of caring for so many amazing individuals and families through my many years as an oncology nurse and have heard countless times that through the challenges came renewed or new strengths and insights, which is often referred to as post-traumatic growth in the field of oncology. Many individuals find that taking some personal control over their health by making changes in lifestyle habits, relationships, or in career paths helps enhance their well-being and may also help them reduce their risk for recurrence or lengthen their survival if not in remission.
For all of those who may still be struggling through a cancer experience may you find hope, faith, and the support you need to live your life the best you possibly can with love, gratitude and peace in your heart. Celebrate the little things as well as the big things!
To end, I would like to share a beautiful poem written by my beloved husband, who is also one of the most compassionate oncologists I have ever met. He wrote and read this poem almost 25 years ago for an event honoring bone marrow transplant survivors and I have had the privilege of reading it at several cancer survivorship wellness workshops. It is as relevant today as it was over 20 years ago.
A Survivor’s Pledge
By Neil Spector, M.D.
Who among us has not taken for granted the beauty of life?
Squandering precious opportunities to express love, gratitude, or encouragement.
Maybe we need to experience the loss of innocence,
Our impending mortality before we can truly see the light.
All too often our minds are cluttered with thoughts provoking negative emotions.
Fear grips our bodies leading to states of overwhelming anxiety and stress.
Finally, a growth, a murmur, an arrhythmia, a state of “dis-ease”.
We search for answers and quick cures.
All the while the answer lies within.
We hold the key to our own destiny.
Oh, if we could only tap into the healing light that flows through our veins.
If we could recognize that we are an integral part of the Universal power,
Not its ultimate conqueror.
Each of us walks through the valley of the shadow of death every moment of our lives.
Most are terrified of the unknown.
Few possess the undying faith necessary to liberate themselves from fear and repression.
As my heart races and my life dashes precariously before my eyes.
I make this promise to God:
“Every moment of my life is unique and treasured,
The past is history, the future uncertain, only the present exists.
I strive for inner peace and lovingly accept myself for who I am,
So that I may be a beacon of light to others.
I reject fear and embrace only joy and love.
Striving to be successful is irrelevant,
For I am already successful in my eyes and those of God.
I relish the moment,
For only in the present is there opportunity for personal growth and spiritual awakening.
I choose life always!”
For more information about National Cancer Survivors Day click on their official website below: