Today is National Cancer Survivors Day, a day set aside to celebrate the more than 32 million people around the world who have battled the disease and to raise awareness of the challenges that many of them face.
So what is a survivor? To many, the term ‘cancer survivor’ suggests a person who has beaten their cancer; perhaps one who has been cancer free for several years, but I like the definition used by the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation. “A ‘survivor’ is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.”
In other words, I am a survivor!
I live with cancer every day. Unless a cure is found for neuroendocrine cancer (NETS) within my lifetime or God performs a miracle on my behalf, I will never be cancer free. People have a hard time grasping the idea of a chronic cancer. The usual assumption is that patients either die of their disease or they are cured, thereby becoming cancer survivors, but I look at my situation differently. I may die of my cancer or I may die with it, but either way, I am a survivor! Fortunately my disease is stable at this point and it doesn’t significantly impact my day to day life. A schedule of monthly injections and biannual treatments restricts my previous worldwide wanderings a bit, but I recognize that every day is a gift.
I’m also a cancer survivor in the more tradition sense, as in one who had the disease, but is now free of it. As many of you know, seven months after my NETS diagnosis, I was diagnosed with a second, completely unrelated cancer that was removed surgically. Six weeks of radiation followed and, since that time, there has been no recurrence. That possibility still exists, of course, but in the meantime I will continue to live life to the fullest.
I am, after all, a survivor!