This Sunday, June 2, 2013 marks the 26th annual National Cancer Survivors Day (NCSD), a time to honor everyone living with a history of cancer. For the nearly 14 million cancer survivors in the U.S. , this day provides the opportunity to celebrate milestones, share their knowledge and experiences with others, recognize those who have supported them and rejoice in life after cancer.
Over the years the Prevent Cancer Foundation has heard many stories from survivors recounting both the challenges and joys experienced throughout their cancer journey. Though our storytellers come from all walks of life and experience cancer differently, many of the ways they choose to cope with their cancer diagnoses, prevent reoccurrences and advocate for cancer prevention are the same. In observance of NCSD, we’d like to share a few words of wisdom and inspiration from a few of our cancer survivors:
Stay Physically & Emotionally Healthy
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through daily exercise, a healthy diet and adequate sleep is one of the best things you can do to cope with the mental and physical hardships of being a cancer patient and reduce your risk for reoccurrence. Recent studies suggest that healthy behaviors prolong life for cancer survivors. Cancer survivor Lauren Antognoli shares how her diagnosis motivated her to make healthier choices:
“My cancer and chemotherapy treatments made me more vulnerable to other types of cancer, so I follow strict guidelines to ensure I stay as healthy as possible to avoid getting cancer again… Having cancer was my wake-up call to start taking care of my body, but you shouldn’t have to be a survivor to make healthy lifestyle changes.”
Connect with Other Cancer Survivors
Family members, co-workers, online communities or cancer survivor networks are just a few of the possible cancer survivors in your life that you can turn to. Cancer survivor Kathye Pepka describes how the advice she received from another cancer patient helped her get through surgery and chemo: “A fellow cancer patient told me once that ‘God never gives you any more than you can handle.’ During all my times thinking ‘I can’t do this,’ I have thought of those words and her.”
Develop Your Own Coping Strategy
Just as each person’s cancer treatment is individualized, so is the coping strategy you use. A few ideas include:
- Practicing relaxation techniques (yoga is a great activity for both the mind and body).
- Talking openly about your feelings with family, friends, a spiritual adviser or a counselor.
- Keeping a journal or a blog to help organize your thoughts.
- Participating in an organized event, like a 5k Walk/Run that raises awareness for cancer research.
Share the Message of Prevention & Early Detection
As a cancer survivor you have a powerful voice that can encourage others to become advocates for their own health, so that they can Stop Cancer Before it Starts! Breast Cancer survivor Holly Rose shares her story of how a friendly reminder turned into a life-saving mission:
One fateful day, (January 13th, 2009 to be exact) a girlfriend of mine posted a reminder to perform a self-breast exam on my Facebook page. I did, and to my horror, I discovered a lump that turned out to be breast cancer. I was extremely fortunate in finding my cancer in the early stages and was able to save my breasts and, more importantly, my life.
I was so grateful for the reminder that saved my life that I decided to do something to give back to my community. I started the Live and Give Foundation, Inc. better known by our campaign, “Don’t be a Chump! Check for a Lump!”…Our mission is to motivate women to perform breast self-exams in the hopes of detecting breast cancer in the early stages.
These stories inspire us all to take better care of our health in ways that reduce our cancer risk for ourselves and our families. Honor the courageous cancer survivors in your life this weekend by sharing the message that cancer prevention and early detection can help save the lives of our loved ones.