Happy Survivor’s Day!
Today is International Cancer Survivor’s Day and Little Fighters Cancer Trust is honoured to be able to take this opportunity to wish all Survivors everywhere a Happy Survivor’s Day!
We would also like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to all those Health-care Providers, Caregivers and Researchers who devote their efforts to helping those with cancer and to increase the length and quality of life of our Cancer Survivors.
International Cancer Survivor’s Day is a Celebration of Life and SO much more!
It is a CELEBRATION for those who have survived
It is an INSPIRATION for those recently diagnosed
It is a gathering of SUPPORT for families; and
It is an OUTREACH to the community.
In the Cancer Community, a Survivor is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life. Whether you’re in treatment, just diagnosed, or have been in remission for 20 years, you’re a Cancer Survivor.
International & National Cancer Survivor’s Day is a time to not only honour cancer Survivors and the caregivers, family, friends and healthcare personnel who have supported and may still be supporting them during their cancer journey, but also to bring some Awareness to the issues cancer Survivors face.
Cancer Survivors are individuals that possess great strength of character, although all of them would disagree with that statement, because they generally reckon they just endured in order to feel normal again someday…
We honour Cancer Survivors because they have overcome a great battle and show us every day that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful, productive and inspiring, which we believe is something that should be celebrated!
Thus, today we HONOUR and CELEBRATE both those who are living with and beyond cancer.
We CELEBRATE those who have survived the fight of their lives….
We CELEBRATE those who have been recently diagnosed with Cancer…
We CELEBRATE the families affected by Cancer…
We CELEBRATE the Community!
For the vast majority of survivors, cancer is no longer the automatic death sentence that it was a few decades ago thanks to our great scientific community for all the research they do, as well as to all the caring individuals that have made oncology their life’s work. The 5-year survival rate is up from 56% in 1987 to around 68% today, if the diagnosis is made early on.
There are, however many challenges that Cancer Survivors face every day of their lives, and today is an opportunity to raise awareness around these challenges:
Many survivors, especially in such a diverse country as South Africa, face limited or total lack of access to specialists; a huge lack of information regarding possible new treatments, inadequate or no medical aid; difficulty in finding employment, and many psychosocial struggles.
Unfortunately, once active treatment ends, very often so does the support that the individual got from family and friends when they were “sick.”
For the cancer survivor though, this is not the end of it; they must still cope with the long-term effects of cancer, which can include various physical side effects; psychological, social, and emotional concerns; and financial hardships.
While cancer survivors are now living much longer after diagnosis thanks to advances in modern medicine, long-term survivorship poses its own unique challenges. These challenges are not being addressed, which often leaves Survivors facing untold hardships for the rest of their life.
What most people tend to forget is that “THERE IS NO CURE FOR CANCER” hence the reason why it is so important to celebrate a day like today; Survivors Day!
People with cancer are never cured ~ they just go into remission. When you or a family member has cancer, the one word that everyone longs to hear is the word “Remission” because it is a reprieve; it means “I am not going to die today!”
According to the dictionary, “Remission is abatement in intensity or degree (as in the manifestations of a disease.”)
In plain English, remission is a period of time in which the cancer is “under control.”
There are 2 types of Remission:
Partial Remission: This means that the cancer is responding well to the various treatments and is being held at bay
Complete Remission: This means that the doctors are no longer able to detect the cancer via tests
The length of time a Survivor could remain in remission depends on individual circumstances. The longer an individual remains in remission, the less likely they are to relapse and for the cancer to return.
While “being in remission” is preferable to the alternative, it also does mean that our Survivors live with the fear that the cancer could return at any time. Survivors tend not to dwell on this fact but to rather make the most of their life every day as far as they are able, but let me tell you that when there is a check-up looming the nerves go haywire…
Going for a check-up after going into remission, which is generally done every 3 months, then every 6 months, then annually, then every five years… and so on… is a nightmare!
As the date looms, the nerves of the survivor, and the parents if it is a minor, are on a knife’s edge; you wake up really early on the morning of the check-up (if you have actually managed to sleep at all); you can’t eat, your mind is in a total tizz, your mouth is dry and so you go… off to an appointment that could either fill you with joy or dump you back into the depths of hell… Trust me, whether it is the first check-up or one 10 years down the line… the emotions are exactly the same!
Cancer is a disease that takes its toll not only on the patient, but on the whole family, with financial stress topping the list of worries – and stress is the LAST thing someone with cancer needs. This can devastate a Survivor, and if they cannot get work, or cannot return to their previous profession due to having had cancer, this becomes yet another battle that they have to fight.
There are also often many battles that a Survivor fights on a daily basis, which they will not speak about most of the time, especially if the problems are of a very personal nature. SO, if that friend or family member that is “cured” of cancer has a bit of an emotional time one day or turns down invites to go somewhere a few times, please understand that they may be battling with something of which you have no idea.
DON’T stop visiting just because a Survivor is no longer undergoing treatment;
DON’T think that now that they are “well” they don’t need your support anymore; Survivors are keenly aware of being a burden on someone or scared that they might be one, especially once they have completed their treatment and are considered “well,” and will therefore often not ask for help even when they need it, so just be there for them; call them or visit once in a while, and don’t stop inviting them out.
DON’T treat a Survivor any differently than you did before – they are still the same person, and need to experience and express real emotions and not have them minimised or brushed off as being “due to the cancer.”
If you know of a family where there is a Survivor, reach out to the husband/wife/siblings/parents once in a while and ask them how it is going. Sometimes they too may need some help or to just be able to talk; to let out the tension and stress… Sometimes they just need a bit of time off – invite them out for tea or offer to stay with the Survivor if they need someone to be with them so that the carer can also have some “me-time.”
Read more about being in remission HERE
To say that surviving cancer is challenging would be an understatement, but it is a challenge that millions are overcoming globally every year!
Every year more and more Survivors Challenge, Overcome, and INSPIRE! Many of them show the rest of us how to live a truly fruitful, rewarding life and inspire millions of others not to give up the fight – these are the signs of a True Warrior!
Many cancer survivors experience positive changes in their outlook, including:
- An appreciation for the resilience of their bodies
- A shift in priorities
- An awareness of the finiteness of life and therefore an appreciation for it
Join with us in Celebrating Life and wishing all our Survivors many cancer-free years ahead.
Survivors, We SALUTE YOU!
On a personal note, I am a Stage 4 Urethral Cancer Survivor for going on 18 years on the 24th of this month, and I celebrate every additional year of life that I have been granted on this earth, with thanks to my great Oncology Team at Groote Schuur Hospital and the support of my friends.
Maintain a positive outlook on life and be
a Survivor not a Victim!
Posted on 7 June, 2015, in Blog and tagged cancer, Cancer Survivor, cancer warrior, International Cancer Survivors Day, International Survivors Day, Little Fighters Cancer Trust, survivor, warrior. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.