“In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States”, according to the National Cancer Institute. The impact of cancer on our society is enormous, not only in the United States, but in the world. And while millions have battled this deadly disease and won, the number of cancer deaths remains at 171.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (National Cancer Institute).
June 5th is National Cancer Survivor’s Day, but what does it mean to be a “survivor”? Being a survivor of cancer has two different definitions, according to Cancer.net. The first is, “Having no disease after the completion of treatment” while the other is “The process of living with, through, and beyond cancer.”
So many men, women, and children battle with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and many other treatments to remove the cancer from their bodies. Not only do these treatments come with painful and life-altering side-effects, but survivors must continue to cope with the fear of re-occurrence and dealing with the treatment methods over again. Being a cancer survivor isn’t just the moment after completing these treatments. It’s the process of going through them, and the process of living life afterwards.
Cancer.net continues with describing 3 periods a cancer survivor experiences:
- Acute Survivorship: describes the time when a person is diagnosed and/or in treatment for cancer
- Extended survivorship: describes the time immediately after completed treatment, usually measured in months
- Permanent survivorship: describes the longer passage of time since completed treatment, usually measured in years.
No matter how much time passes since a cancer survivor completes treatment, the battle against cancer and regaining their health and well-being is almost always a life-time battle.
According to the National Cancer Institute and their publication, Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment, “After cancer treatment, many survivors want to find ways to reduce the chances of their cancer coming back. Some worry that the way they eat, the stress in their lives, or their exposure to chemicals may put them at risk. Cancer survivors find that this is a time when they take a good look at how they take care of themselves” (pg. 5).
Because of this, various lifestyle changes are important to stay healthy after cancer treatment. Things like quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, eating well and exercising can make your body physically stronger and healthier.
According to Cancer.net, the increase in survival rates with cancer are likely due to the many preventative measures we take to find early-onset of cancer (such as mammograms, pap tests, colonoscopies, and prostate tests or PSAs), improvements in treatment options, as well as post-cancer healing programs, such as LiveSTRONG, a program now held at our Harrisburg Area YMCA branches. LiveSTRONG “provide[s] direct services, […] connect[s] people and communities with the services they need, and […] call[s] for state, national and world leaders to help fight this disease,” according to LiveSTRONG.org.
Keeping your body healthy after cancer is important, and programs like LiveSTRONG help survivors do just that. In fact, our East Shore, West Shore, and Northern Dauphin County YMCA branches have just completed their first session of LiveSTRONG at the YMCA. Find out what the survivors thought of the program HERE!
Through this program, our YMCAs seek to help cancer survivors on their journey to recovery by helping them reclaim their health and well-being after a cancer diagnosis. These 12-week programs offer a support system for cancer survivors as they improve their strength and physical fitness, while developing supportive relationships and improving quality of life.
Winning the battle against cancer or surviving the battle through it is why our nation celebrates and recognizes National Cancer Survivor’s Day every year on the first Sunday in June. According to NationalCancerSurvivorsDay.org, National Cancer Survivor’s Day is “a CELEBRATION for those who have survived, an INSPIRATION for those recently diagnosed, a gathering of SUPPORT for families, and an OUTREACH to the community.”
It’s important for those who battle this disease to receive care and support, but it’s also an important day for those who “battle” alongside loved ones who are diagnosed. Dealing with the loss of a loved one from cancer or the fear of losing friends or family from this disease is also a battle in and of itself. This Sunday is a day to recognize the battle, fight against it, celebrate victories, support those who struggle, and promote cancer research on a national and global scale.
So, whether you know someone who is battling cancer, you yourself have or are battling cancer, or you have never experienced the effects of cancer in your personal life, take this Sunday to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer in their past or who are battling cancer today. They are survivors and their lives are a testimony to many.
– Emily Sanville, Digital Communications Coordinator