Who is a cancer survivor? According to the National Cancer Institute, someone is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis throughout the rest of their life. Every cancer survivor is indeed unique, experiencing their own forms of challenges, treatments, and life changes. National Cancer Survivor Month exists to shine a light on all forms ofcancer, survivorship research, and how we can support our friends living with or beyond cancer.
How can you show your support?
The American Association for Cancer Research highlights National Cancer Survivor Month, specifically Cancer Survivors Day® on the first Sunday in June. They offer a variety of suggestions for folks who are looking to raise their support for cancer survivors:
- Raise Awareness About Survivorship. Amplify the message on social media! Shout it from the rooftops, “June is Cancer Survivor Month!” Better yet, share your story. If you have lived with or beyond cancer or know someone who has, feel empowered to celebrate your survivorship story! Every day, more and more people face a cancer diagnosis. With endless information at our fingertips, statistics and figures help us wrap our heads around the facts. However, human connection and understanding can resonate in the hearts of many. Any benefit you’ve received from cancer research is worth sharing to spread awareness of its importance.
- Donate to Lifesaving Research. It was a tough year, and financial commitments can be hard to stick with, especially charitable ones. If you have extra income to spare, you can consider donating to several cancer research institutions, including the American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, and the Cancer Research Institute.
- Know the Facts. Thanks to lifesaving cancer research, nearly 17 million cancer survivors in the United States are living with, through, and beyond cancer. In fact, over the next decade, experts anticipate the number of cancer survivors to skyrocket; while this can be morose to some, it bolsters hope and improvements in cancer treatments and research.
Learning About Rare Cancers
Cancer Survivor Month also raises awareness of rare forms of cancer that are less well-known. Mesothelioma, for example, is a type of cancer solely caused by asbestos exposure or inhaling or ingesting asbestos fibers. There are different types of mesothelioma depending on where cancer has spread; pleural mesothelioma develops in the lining of the lungs, peritoneal mesothelioma affects the lining of the abdomen, and pericardial mesothelioma spreads to the heart’s lining.
Only about 3,000 cases of mesothelioma emerge every year. Meanwhile, nearly 20 million people are at risk of developing the disease over the course of their lives. Asbestos exposure sites and types can vary from household products (like baby powder or powder makeup) to shipyards and construction areas. Even our local heroes like firefighters and veterans can be at a higher risk of contracting mesothelioma. Like with most forms of cancer, early detection is key to receiving the appropriate treatment. Some of the most common symptoms of mesothelioma include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Coughing or wheezing
- Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Fever and night sweats
- Fluid buildup
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
Share Your Story
Any form of mesothelioma cancer is devastating for patients and their loved ones, however, stories of survivorship provide hope and inspiration for all cancer patients undergoing treatment and battling the disease. These testimonials show that long-term survival from mesothelioma and other cancers is possible and treatment options are available to help improve life expectancy. At the Y, we are committed to supporting cancer survivors by providing our no-cost program, LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA. LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA is an evidence-based program that helps adult cancer survivors reclaim their health and well-being following a cancer diagnosis. Our participants are a collection of determined, empowering, and inspiring individuals, who we also encourage to share their stories to help others.
It’s incredibly important to support all cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones during National Cancer Survivor Month and beyond. Raising public awareness of different forms of cancer, including rare cancers, can help with early detection so patients can receive the speedy treatment they need. Sharing patient stories and information about contracting different cancers can help us all better understand what patients endure and how we can promote, fund, and distribute research about preventative care options.
–Madeline Kelly, Digital Communications Coordinator