June is National Cancer Survivor Month. According to the American Cancer Society, a cancer survivor is “anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer no matter where they are in the course of their disease.” While the word survivor often suggests completion, it is important to validate the ongoing and far-reaching implications of having cancer. Moving through any stage of cancer–whether active, remitted, or totally eradicated–is very significant and something we must celebrate and respect.
Since there are an estimated 17 million people in this country who are living through a cancer diagnosis, the month of June gives us the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the human lives that have experienced cancer in some form — their unique voice and their unique experience.
Unfortunately, a cancer diagnosis will always leave a mark on someone’s health history. There will be medical and lifestyle factors to consider and share with any new healthcare professional. Coordinating care can be very stressful and overwhelming, so it’s important to promote the practice of advocacy.
Sometimes we can’t advocate for ourselves, and that’s why this month gives us the opportunity to help each other. If you’re a cancer survivor, moving from one treatment to another or trying to accept a new phase of the battle, make sure you have an outlet to express yourself honestly. This could be a support group of any kind, a mental health professional, family member, or friend. You do not have to do any part of cancer alone.
Doctor visits can be disorienting and explaining your story can be exhausting, so make sure you have someone to gently remind you to use your voice. And if you know a cancer survivor, take this month to call them and check on them–even if they’ve been in remission or cancer-free for years! Invite them into a space where their voice will be heard.
Like remembering an anniversary of loss, remembering a cancer journey – yours or someone else’s — is powerful. If you’re struggling to put words to that journey, a set of For The Girls pink wind chimes is a beautiful way to recognize the experience while giving a gift that gives back.
The battles and scars may not be easily forgotten, but that doesn’t mean healing isn’t possible. Remember to honor and affirm the survivors you know, for being brave despite loss and pain. Their resilience reminds us that life is worth fighting for. Here’s to the survivors!