June is Cancer Survivor month with ribbons of many colors.

Being a Cancer Survivor

Early Detection is Key to Cancer Survival

Seven years ago TODAY, I heard the words no one wants to hear, “you have cancer”.  The flood of emotions is hard to put into words but there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to fight with every ounce of my being.  I consider myself very lucky, I didn’t have to have radiation or chemotherapy, I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy and was very fortunate because I found it very early and they were able to “get it all”.  Not in my lymph nodes and clean margins.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone, and being a survivor means different things to different people.

Should we be called Survivors?

By nature, I am a pretty optimistic person. In my eyes, the glass is half full, but cancer can make you second guess yourself.  First, there are those people who do not want to be called a survivor.  Why not?  Unfortunately, the thought of reoccurrence is ALWAYS on our minds.  You are always going through the CAUTION acronym.

The acronym “CAUTION” helps you recognize the seven most common signs of cancer. 

  • C – change in bowel or bladder habits
  • A – a sore that does not heal
  • U – unusual bleeding or discharge
  • T – thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere
  •  I – indigestion
  • O – obvious change to warts or moles
  • N – nagging cough

As you can imagine when any of these happen to a survivor the worry sets in.  Or how about those who have to have periodic scans, every time they have to go for a scan they are bracing themselves for the worst.

Survivor Guilt

I am being 100% transparent today. I sometimes feel I should not be called a survivor; I have survivor guilt.  I’ve watched friends go through so much worse: multiple surgeries, chemo that made them sick, sore, lose their hair, and other horrible side effects.  Those who are living cancer free after going through all of that are survivors in my mind and I salute every one of them!  They are, unfortunately,  reminded every day, in one way or another of the fight they had to win to be called a survivor.

We Need More Cancer Survivors

The amount of loss to cancer is heartbreaking, there’s too much, too young with no end in sight.  Finding a cure to this horrible disease is so important.  Finding the causes is also important.

While most people believe that genetics play the biggest role in determining if you have the potential to get cancer, I am the perfect example of that being flawed.  My mother died of breast cancer at a very young age, the day after her 35th birthday.  Her mother also died of breast cancer, I believe she was in her 60s.  After I was diagnosed I did the genetic testing to see if I had “the gene”.  I do not have the gene, had I done the testing prior to being diagnosed I would have thought I was in the clear, and I may not have been as vigilant with my screening.  There are far more variables than just the genes we are born with.

The bottom line is that most people who get cancer will not know how or why.  But we can be aware of the warning signs, listen to our bodies, and be healthy BEFORE we NEED to be healthy so that if we do hear those words that no one wants to hear, we are ready to fight and be a survivor.

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