Defining Cancer Survivorship June 13, 2011Posted by mcleodcancercenter in Uncategorized.
June is National Cancer Survivorship Month and as McLeod prepares to honor survivors with its Cancer Survivor’s Day Celebration on Saturday, June 18, I thought that as a cancer “survivor” I would review the definition and information of survivorship.
Wikipedia defines a cancer survivor as “an individual with cancer of any type, current or past, who still lives.” The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship believes a person diagnosed with cancer is a survivor from the time of diagnosis and for the balance of their life.
Some people reject the term survivor as being “a narrow definition of highly variable human experiences.” Yet others believe that the “idea of survivorship emphasizes and values longevity of life after diagnosis, while overlooking issues of quality of life.” Alternatives to the word survivor include “alivers” and “thrivers” which place emphasis on living as well as you possibly can despite limitations and disability.
We know that those of us who have experienced cancer often will have physical and psychosocial challenges. “These effects vary from person to person and statistics show that cancer survivors suffer from more psychological distress than those who have never experienced cancer (5.6% compared to 3.0%). Serious psychological distress is seen 40% more in cancer survivors of 5 years or longer than in those who have never experienced cancer. In addition, around 10% of cancer survivors develop depressive disorder, others experience an adjustment disorder, and many are fearful that their cancer could recur (9 in 10 patients).”
The medical challenges experienced by survivors can include among others: cancer- related fatigue, long-term side effects from cancer and treatments, and temporary or persistent cognitive problems (chemo brain). In a nutshell, cancer survivors frequently need medical monitoring and complementary modalities to address the psychosocial effects of cancer.
I also reviewed the definition of the word survive in the Merrian Webster Dictionary and one definition caught my eye. This definition comes from Latin and the word is supervivere = the word super and the word vivere which means to live. As survivors, we often reflect on our cancer journey by evaluating our priorities, looking within for our strengths and ways to cope, dwelling on cancer and how it has changed our lives, and assessing our fears and finding how best to manage those. We now reflect on what really matters in our lives and how we should move forward. And, we review passions we may have had in the past and make those a priority and goal. We also take a hard look at our lives as we get a second chance to live.
For me, survivorship is about living and making a difference. It is about living in spite of the fears and the aches and pain. It is about taking the time to enjoy life fully and enjoying every opportunity to celebrate life. I invite you to share a comment on what it means for you to be a survivor.
I hope you all plan to attend the 19th Annual McLeod Cancer Survivor’s Day Celebration this Saturday! The event will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the McLeod Medical Plaza Conference Center. All cancer survivors in the region are welcome to attend whether you are newly diagnosed or you have been a survivor for 20 plus years.
In addition, our breast cancer support group, Shelby’s Group, meets this Thursday, June 16, at 6:00 p.m. at the McLeod Resource Center. Our guest will be Stuart Harrell, Assistant Director of McLeod Pastoral Care, as we explore Spirituality and Healing. Come join us!