5 Survivor Stories For National Cancer Survivors Day
National Cancer Survivors Day (NCSD) is an annual, international celebration of life. Every year on the first sunday of June (this Sunday, June 2nd) it is tradition to celebrate the survival of former and current cancer patients. The celebration is meant to inspire those recently diagnosed, support families whose loved ones have the disease, and to reach out to communities and let people know that cancer is not the end.
NCSD is actually a foundation that "provides free guidance, education, and networking to hundreds of hospitals, support groups, and other cancer-related organizations that host NCSD events in their communities." Over a dozen countries participate in hosting events.
In their eyes, anyone living with a history of cancer is a survivor. You don't have to be cancer free to earn the status. If you're here, you've survived. Simple as that.
Here are some inspring stories of people who have lived or are living with cancer, provided by The National Cancer Institute:
Before Johnson could remove a cancerous prostate, doctors discovered the disease had already spread to his lymph nodes. Faced with an incurable form of cancer, Johnson's main concern is living as long and as well as he can. Since his diagnosis, he's been getting more exercise, eating healthier, and has, with the help of his wife Marlys, founded the non-profit Cancer Adventures, a 501 (c3) dedicated to encouraging good health and quality of life despite the obstacle of living with cancer.
Turner missed 18 months of work after she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Her loved ones helped her emotionally, and financially as she went through four months of aggressive chemo therapy in 2003. They even organized a hockey game fundraiser to help lower the financial burden of her medical bills. When she returned to work as a New Haven, CT police officer, the outpouring of support from friends, family and co-workers encouraged her to found The Chain Fund, a financial assistance and a social intervention network for cancer patients. "I don't think [I went through cancer] not to do anything," she says. "I believe I went through it so I could do what I'm doing now." Turner is cancer free.
When he was nine, Ciccerelli found out he had Hodgkinson's Disease. He did everything he could to feel like a kid and reassure his parents that he was allright--even if it meant playing kickball with a catheter attached to his chest. At age 26, he is cancer free and works as a financial consultant for Morgan Stanley. Looking back he credits his support system for helping him find strength to endure a serious illness at such a young age. "I looked at cancer as a team sport," he says. "[on] my own I would never win, but if I opened up to the positivity of others around me, I knew I would have a fighting chance."
While he was sick, Ciccerelli learned the value of connecting with someone with similar life experiences. As a kid suffering from nausea and losing his hair due to treatment, he became shy. When a family member took the time to talk with him about his experiences with cancer, Ciccerelli felt better knowing that he was not the only one. This inspired him to create the website called Conquer Together (currently under maintenance), which allows cancer survivors, family members and caregivers from around the world to support one another by sharing their stories. According to NCI, the site has hundreds of members and gets thousands of hits each day.
Wright was also a child when disease appeared in her body. Headaches sent her to the doctor's where she learned she had Ewing sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer in her skull. Ten months of chemo and five weeks of radiation was her treatment, a process that she sensed was hard for her family to cope with.
Wright had an especially hard time dealing with the loss of her hair, which would be miserable for any teenager, let alone a teenage girl. Unfortunately, the radiation killed the hair cells on a patch of skin on the back of her head, causing the hair loss there to be permanent. Debbie, Wright's mother, found a cranial prosthesis hair system that was so real looking that when she wore it, no one – not even the doctors – could tell it wasn't her real hair. Wright was relieved by her mother's discovery, but couldn't get her mind off the other patients she saw who also endured the loss of their hair. To ease her heart and the burden of other patients, she and her mom created the Angel Hair Foundation, an organization that donates hair systems to children and teens in Oregon who are faced with the difficult chemo side-effect of hair loss.
Wright says she often looks at how cancer has affected her life: "[It] made me realize what is important in life and made me the more mature person I am today."
Cervical cancer means facing an illness that will take its toll on your body; it also means facing a social stigma. Since this kind of cancer is transmitted sexually, Felder felt the brunt of others' judgement after she was diagnosed at age 25. Fortunately, she gained the confidence and self-respect to cut those people out of her life so she could focus more on the people who only gave her love and support. And she needed it.
After her diagnosis, she couldn't work. On top of dealing with illness, Felder grew anxious about her finances and her social life. When she got to the point of giving up, her mom and best friend wouldn't let her. With their help, though the pain was "unbearable," she realized "cancer didn't have to be a death sentence."
Eventually, she became cancer free. Ten years after her diagnosis, she was a better version of herself, working again as a television reporter and producer in D.C. She also founded Tamika & Friends, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about cervical cancer and its link to HPV, and how education and treatment can bring people closer to healthier lives. It even has its own YouTube channel.