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Infusion of Hope

Perspectives on Being a Cancer Survivor

In my book, What Helped Get Me Through: Cancer Survivors Share Wisdom and Hope, I asked people what it meant to them to be a survivor. Usually, being a survivor means that you have lived through something very challenging. There is no doubt that cancer fits the bill.
June 2016 Vol 2 No 3
Julie Silver, MD
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Boston, MA

In my book, What Helped Get Me Through: Cancer Survivors Share Wisdom and Hope, I asked people what it meant to them to be a survivor. Usually, being a survivor means that you have lived through something very challenging. There is no doubt that cancer fits the bill.

Celestine had stomach cancer and summarized her response as, “I am still here amongst the land of the living!”

Sarah, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, said something similar, “Being a cancer survivor means living my life.” Others had a different take on survivorship.

Joining a Club

Some of those diagnosed with cancer reflected that they were now part of a unique group. Matt had leukemia and said, “I am in one hell of a club.” Bill dealt with prostate cancer and reported, “I have become a member of a ‘reluctant brotherhood’.”

Lovey had uterine cancer and said that being part of this group means that you have an opportunity to help other people get through it.

Being Strong

Quite a few survivors mentioned strength. One individual preferred the term “warrior” to “survivor.” Another said she had a strong will to live. Maureen reported that she was able to “take charge and become a better person.” Jocelyn reflected that she is proud of her strength.

The Effect of Time

Many people said that they appreciated time more. They were less worried about work, and spent less time upset about the little things. Others reported that they welcomed the aging process—wrinkles and all.

Pat, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, recognized that the treatment she received was far better than what her mother had gotten. She also said, “If my daughter has to go through this experience, hers will be easier. If there is any justice in this world, it means my granddaughter will not have to worry about it at all.”

One woman said, “I’ve been a cancer survivor so long, I don’t know anything else.”

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Last modified: October 5, 2017

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