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 Valarie Schlosser, a stage IV survivor at age 49.
Survivorship is one of the most complicated parts of having cancer because it's different for everyone.
Survivor can means different things to different people. Common definitions include:
- NED = (No Evidence of Disease)
- Having no signs of cancer after finishing treatment
- Living with, through, and beyond colon cancer
To me, cancer survivorship begins from the moment you are diagnosed and can continue on for a lifetime.
For some, it can also mean you are now able to do to whatever you weren't able because of treatment, from jogging/walking/hiking to anything that gave you joy; surviving is when you are able to get back at it!
For a lot of us, and me included, survivorship serves as a strong motivator to make positive lifestyle changes.
I often use the analogy that I was living in a cocoon before being diagnosed and my survivorship has given me wings to fly! I’ve been able to soar to heights I never imagined; I truly don’t believe I would have touched as many lives.
Cancer has helped find my purpose in life and a job that I truly love doing: spreading awareness of colon cancer symptoms and helping others learn how to prevent and catch colon cancer dead in its tracks.
Survivors experience a mixture and range of strong feelings, including joy, concern, relief, guilt, and fear.
Some say they appreciate life more have a greater acceptance of themselves. Others become very anxious about their health and have trouble coping with everyday life. It's normal to feel some stress when frequent visits to the healthcare team end after treatment.
As time goes on, new challenges surface, including late effects of treatment, worry over recurrence, sexuality and fertility concerns, along with financial and workplace issues.
Because the challenges don't end when you're done with treatment, you have to learn to recognize your fears and talk about with someone who can empathize. Speaking with fellow survivors is a great help. Surround yourself with those that feed your soul rather than those that bleed you dry with emotions and negative moods.
Believe me, being diagnosed or having a loved one diagnosed with colon cancer can for sure cause PTSD (post tramautic stress disorder). It’s important to have someone, (or a list of people, if you’re able!) call and talk when those dark moments appear.
At the end of the day, “survivor” has so many definitions but the only one that counts is our own.
Until next time,
Be Brave and Continue to Live Your Best Life.
Valarie Schlosser is Colon Cancer Alliance Advocate, Volunteer, and a Buddy; Guest Blogger, Speaker, and a Patient. Her greatest accomplishment is being a mother of a beautiful 23-year-old daughter. She was diagnosed in 2015 at the age of 49 and has gone through 39 rounds of chemo treatments a combination of FOLFIRI, 5FU and FOLFOX, and just recently started Xeloda. She currently resides in Tampa Florida, but has lived all over Pennsylvania and Ft. Lauderdale. Her motto is “A Negative Mind Cannot Produce a Positive Life.”