“Survivorship may mean different things depending on who you ask, but I think what’s really important is that for those impacted by cancer, more and more are able to say that they are still here and have the opportunity to determine what survivorship means to them.”
You’ve been called a cancer survivor, but what does that really mean? This term is extremely hard to define, since every cancer patient has a different diagnosis and different prognosis. So how can a single word encompass so many different situations? I guess this is possible because everyone diagnosed with cancer gets to define survivorship that stretch from the time I was diagnosed to long after my treatments have ended.
The first stage of survivorship I experienced while undergoing treatment. During this time, I was able to identify myself as a survivor by the simple fact that I was not dead. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. The most imp0rtant aspect of being a cancer survivor is to continue to live. It was important to work with my doctors and medical team to do the things necessary to remove this awful disease from my body. Treatment is incredibly taxing on the body. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life, but I fought through every round of chemotherapy because I knew that this was my only option if I wanted to stay alive. It was during this time that I refused to let cancer take complete control of my life. Since I couldn’t attend school the last four months of my sophomore year, I worked with tutors in order to maintain my grades and complete all academic requirements to be able to graduate on schedule. It was also important to continue to spend time with friends and family to keep me emotionally healthy. Continuing to live as much of a normal life as possible allowed me to show cancer that it was not the boss.
A life full of chemotherapy treatments and follow up clinic appointments took up most of my time and I actually began to take some comfort in my new normal. Once completing treatment and being declared cancer-free, I entered into the second phase of survivorship. This phase is all about getting back to a normal. During this phase both the physical and emotional scars of cancer started to fade as I started living and acting like a typical high school student again. After my final round of treatment, I slowly began exercising in order to get back in shape for field hockey. I made the team and eleven weeks after my last treatment, I played in the team’s first scrimmage and continued to gain playing time as the season progressed. Apart from the occasional checkup with my oncologist, I am now just a typical teenager.
I believe the final stage of survivorship is advocacy. This phase is about giving back however you can in order to help prevent anyone else to have to go through this horrible experience. Since being back in school, I have become the executive committee overall chairperson for the Four Diamonds branch at my high school to raise funds to support pediatric cancer patients at Hersey Medical Center. I was also recently named the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s 2018 Student of the Year for raising over $61,000 during their seven week fund raising campaign to support blood cancer research. I feel that this stage of survivorship is critical so that hopefully someday soon, a cure will be found.
Survivorship may mean different things depending on who you ask, but I think what’s really important is that for those impacted by cancer, more and more are able to say that they are still here and have the opportunity to determine what survivorship means to them.
If you would like to help Reagan and other children battling cancer, donate today!