Today marks the 31st time that I get to recognize National Cancer Survivors Day. 31 YEARS!!!
My first memory of the word “cancer” came in elementary school more than fifteen years early than my diagnosis, with a fundraiser at elementary school (annually), called “Send A Mouse To College”, sponsored by the American Cancer Society to help find a cure for cancer. Of course, as a five-year old, I had no idea what cancer was.
But by the time I had entered high school, I learned what cancer at least meant, death. Though I had members of my family pass away from cancer during my youth, I was unaware why. But during health education class, I learned about Terry Fox, an athlete from Canada, who had lost his leg due to cancer, and would eventually lose his life in 1981 to that cancer. He was a known cancer advocate raising awareness for cancer research by attempting a cross-country from, east to west, across Canada. His legacy now, since 1981, the annual Terry Fox Run, attracting runners from all over the world raising hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research.
Unfortunately, it was also his story, that would be the first of many, to remind me, people die of cancer. I had never heard of anyone living after it.
My first personal cancer survivor was my grandmother (pictured on the right). She actually faced cancer twice, but it was her first battle with breast cancer in 1986, that gave me the inspiration when I faced Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1988, finishing my treatments March 3, 1990, 31 years ago. She would eventually pass away from ovarian cancer twelve years later.
Since then, I have met hundreds if not thousands of other cancer survivors, in person, or on line, each having their own inspirational story to share.
For most of us, National Cancer Survivors Day is a bittersweet day because we want to recognize and celebrate that cancer can be beaten. Life does go on after cancer. That hopefully one day, everyone who faces a diagnosis will hear the words “you are in remission.”
But NCSD is more than just a date and survivors. It is a time that we also recognize that not all survivors have been able to move on or as some would wish “to just get over it.” Emotionally many face challenges ranging from PTSD to discrimination. Physically, many of us have developed issues related to the treatments used to cure us, progressive in nature, and sometimes, no answer for them.
And then many of us struggle with this day, because we have lost someone close to us, to this awful disease, or many losses, and are not here to celebrate with us.
But we cannot lose sight of this. Today is National Cancer Survivors Day. Cancer can be beat. We are so close to finding the cures necessary.
To all my fellow survivors, today is your day! Another year!
And as I often share an expression, “as I go down the road of remission, I will keep looking in my rear view mirror to make sure that you are still following me. And if you have not made that turn onto that road yet, hurry up! It’s a great ride!”