Thoughts on “Am I a Cancer Survivor?”


What does it mean to be a cancer survivor? For everyone it is very different, for some they can’t even use the word ‘survivor’. I accept and embrace the word – for it means that there is still life, energy, spirit, and opportunity within you to push on, to push forward. I take my cancer survivorship as a challenge to be a spokesperson for research and to be a sounding board for anyone who is facing the challenge of living a life with cancer.
Once you are diagnosed with cancer, your life changes – it is a life with cancer. And to live that life, you must learn how to survive – survive the treatment, survive the uncertainty of what your next scan or blood test might bring, survive how it changes your body, mind, and spirit. There is a lot of survival in living with cancer. It can be hard for some to handle and grasp, but it can be embraced and give a sense of direction and purpose in your life.
(Secrets of Cancerhood is a brilliantly written blog by Suleika Jaouad, who is currently undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. Her blog is captivating, thoughtful, and inspring, and is featured on the New York Times.)

Secrets of Cancerhood

By SULEIKA JAOUAD

Photo Credit: Seamus McKiernan

 

It was the annual fund-raising event for the Hope Lodge, my temporary home after a bone marrow transplant. The host asked all the survivors to step forward from the crowd. I froze. I didn’t know if that word applied to me. What does it mean to be a survivor? I certainly didn’t feel like one. Not yet, anyway.

The first time anyone used the word “survivor” in reference to me, I had just been admitted to the bone marrow transplant unit of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. A nurse came into my hospital room to review the transplant calendar with me. The transplant had been looming on the horizon ever since my diagnosis with leukemia in May 2011. The nurse briefed me on the sequence of events: intensive chemotherapy, followed by the transplant, and then a four- to six-week hospitalization. I noticed something on…

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