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Every story - like cancer itself - is unique. This blog is part of our ongoing 2017 Survivor Week. Join us from May 29-June 4 as we unpack the complexity of what it means to be a cancer survivor, from those who reject the word entirely to individuals who have embraced their diagnosis with a new sense of purpose. What does being a survivor mean to you? This post was written by Jessica Joseph, a stage III survivor at age 17. I wake up, take my plethora of various pills, go to school, do my homework, take more pills, go to sleep, then wake up again and press repeat. That is surviving for me, but only on the surface. When I look deeper, being a survivor really means I woke up and made it one more day. It means I’m lucky. There are others who don’t wake up. Am I just better than them? Did they do something wrong? They didn’t wake up and I did so I am a survivor. Everyday I fight physically and mentally. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I want to quit, and then I see someone else fighting an even harder battle and I find the strength inside to keep going. I see the world differently. I never asked to see it this way, but now that I do, I’ve learned to appreciate what I have. Being a survivor means I continuously carry the hardships I face. It means I continue to make more memories, happy and sad, but all worth it. At 17, most teenagers are a hub of energy, busily taking on the challenges of college prep, managing friends and a budding social life. For Jessica Joseph, a stage III colorectal cancer diagnosis in December 2016 shifted her focus to advocacy on what was once popularly considered an “old man’s disease.” As a young person dealing with cancer, Jessica has refused to approach her diagnosis with a defeatist mindset.

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