Surviving Cancer and then some
Did you know that Sunday, June 5 marks the 35th Annual National Cancer Survivors Day®? I wouldn’t be surprised if your answer is no. It’s kind of new to me and I’ve been a cancer survivor (though I prefer to say I’m a cancer thriver) since 2009!
This first Sunday in June is reserved annually for people around the world to recognize and celebrate those who have survived their cancer. NCSD helps raise awareness of the ongoing challenges that cancer survivors face.
The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation defines a survivor as anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life. By this definition I became a cancer survivor on June 25, 2009. But I really think I became a survivor on this same day in 1971 at the age of 6, when my mother lost her battle with cancer and passed away at the heartbreakingly young age of 42. To become an official survivor on that same day 38 years later felt like a sign – that years of cancer research would help me get through my Stage III diagnosis.
I grew up hoping that if I ate right, exercised and followed breast cancer screening guidelines, that I’d avoid a diagnosis of cancer. But you know what they say, you can’t outrun your genetics. My mammogram made it clear something wasn’t right and an MRI and biopsy confirmed that I had bilateral breast cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. When I learned that I was BRCA positive it became an easy decision to proceed with a bilateral mastectomy and an oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries).
Surviving these past 13 years has certainly come with its ups and downs. I know that my healthy lifestyle leading up to my diagnosis played a very big part in my recoveries from my multiple surgeries and I was able to return to a life full of mothering my three young boys, cooking with passion and distance running. Thankfully the downs have been few, and I have a wonderful medical team that helps me work through them.
It has always been my way to not wait for a specific day on the calendar marked for observance to recognize the important people in my life and who have supported me along my cancer journey.
But the subject of cancer research and celebrating survivorship is an exception. I plan to take the opportunity of this first Sunday in June to reach out and really connect with a friend of mine who was recently diagnosed with a progressed stage of colon cancer. For me, I think I always expected to get a diagnosis and when it came, it wasn’t really a surprise. That is not her story. I want her to know how proud I am of her for how she’s handled her diagnosis and kept a positive attitude. I want to remind her to celebrate her bravery and I hope I can brighten her day.
Take the time to learn more about what the NCSD Foundation does and if you are interested in finding out what events might be happening near you, you can contact NCDS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christine Brophy, Vice President of Behavior Change, mother of three incredible young men, cancer survivor thriver and eternal optimist. When not found at her desk, she’s likely to be off for a run in the woods.