It’s an undisputed fact – cancer affects everyone. With almost 17 million people living with and beyond cancer in the U.S. today, and more than 43 million cancer survivors worldwide, everyone knows someone whose life has been touched by cancer. People often ask how they can be there for someone going through cancer. So I wanted to share some tips to support cancer survivors every day.
As the first Sunday in June approaches, so to does National Cancer Survivors Day. It’s a great time to come together to recognize cancer survivors. This day is a time to recognize those affected by cancer celebrate life. And also pause to reflect on the realities of being a cancer survivor – challenges, gratitude and more.
And while this day helps raise awareness of what it is to be a cancer survivor and challenges faced, those of us touched by cancer know that survivorship is 365 days a year.
Grateful to be surviving every day
I like to acknowledge National Cancer Survivors Day because as a bone cancer, melanoma and breast cancer survivor, I’m grateful to be alive. It’s the perfect time to acknowledge how my life dramatically changed with each diagnosis and treatment. I reflect and celebrate how far I’ve come, lessons learned and gratitude at being alive.
Being a cancer survivor has taught me a lot of lessons. My days have been up and down with challenges, emotions, mental well-being and more. But the most important thing I’ve learned as a cancer survivor – appreciate every day. No every minute.
It’s also a great opportunity to raise awareness of how to help each other through challenging times.
Tips to support cancer survivors every day:
Celebrate survivorship every day.
Not everyone wants to acknowledge their cancer diagnosis once it’s over, and that’s okay. You do you. As I mentioned above, I focus more on celebrating all that I overcame, and continue to. And being alive another day. It’s not always an easy road. Nope, I’ve struggled more physically, mentally and emotionally than I ever thought possible. And I know I will face treatment side effects off and on for years, and probably balance optimism with anxiety about my health. So focusing on what I’ve overcome, achieved and all that’s possible help me get through each day. I previously shared “Lessons Learned from Being a Young Adult Cancer Survivor” on the National Cancer Survivors’ Day blog. Some of my personal celebrations may resonate with you. You can also read my post on “45 reasons to celebrate life as a cancer survivor” if you need more inspiration.
Be proactive with your health.
One of the important things that I’ve learned since my first cancer diagnosis is to appreciate your body. Do not take your health for granted. That means you have to take care of your body. Being proactive with your health can save your life. Cancer screenings are critical (read 5 cancer screenings not to miss post), as is paying attention to changes in your health.
Use your voice.
Consider getting involved with cancer advocacy. Even if you only have a few minutes to spare each month, your emails, social media posts and phone calls can make a big difference. [Read my blog on five ways to advocate for change in cancer care.] Our elected officials help shape policy and funding that impact research, clinical trials, new treatment options, preventive screenings, affordable care and more. Their votes affect lives and that’s why it’s so important to share our stories and remind them of their impact.
I’ve gathered a lot of cancer resources to share over the years. You can search my blog post by topics in the search box on the right side of this blog. Here are a few highlights:
There are so many myths and inaccurate facts and stereotypes about cancer that need to stop. If you have or know of helpful resources, consider sharing (feel free to share this blog!) with others.
Be a friend through the journey.
Hearing “you have cancer” is very overwhelming. Knowing that others are there to support you can make a remarkable difference in someone’s outlook. People often step up when someone is initially diagnosed or in treatment, then drop off when treatment ends. Remember that the journey doesn’t end when treatment does. Many of us face ongoing side effects, continued testing or other issues that cause mental and emotional angst. It’s okay, and often appreciated, to ask how someone’s health is doing post-treatment. I shared some ideas on how to be a friend during cancer here.
There are a lot of great nonprofits and other organizations offering excellent programs and services for cancer survivors. Sharing your time and/or talent as a volunteer can make a big impact on supporting cancer survivors. Some organizations are looking for peer to peer mentors, support group facilitators, event helpers and more. And, of course, money always is appreciated as it support the programs and services.
If you’re looking for two great opportunities to support some worthy charities, consider these:
I’m participating in Livestrong’s virtual Ride Across Iowa in July to raise funds for their cancer support programs and services. These include fertility assistance, navigation services, school programs, advocacy efforts and more. Your donation supports cancer survivors and caregivers.
Honor a loved one affected by cancer by donating to American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)’s Lights of Hope event. Once again, the Lights of Hope Across America event will be hosted in individual communities across the U.S. You can show support of a loved one by purchasing a luminary bag in their honor/memory to display at the event. Click here to purchase your $10 Lights of Hope bag.
These are just a few tips to support cancer survivors every day. The best advice I can give if you are cancer survivor is to give yourself a break. You know what’s best for you. And if you are supporting someone through cancer, be there. Let the person know that they are not alone.