On the occasion of National Cancer Survivors’ Day, we focus on the tools we need to become and remain survivors. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you already know that from the moment of your diagnosis, you aspired to become a survivor.
Those of us in remission know that the fear of cancer recurrence is too real to ignore. Survivorship is our common ambition and this post presents some inspiration from other survivors who continue to beat cancer daily.
While international cricketer Yuvraj Singh had a very public struggle with his stage I lung cancer in 2012, what astounded everyone was that he was back in the national squad in the same year that he completed his treatment.
Another famous Indian to beat cancer is Manisha Koirala. Talking about her struggle with ovarian cancer, she says, “Cancer became my teacher. It taught me to seek out help in various aspects influencing my health.”
She goes on to say that yoga, fitness and prioritising on keeping herself happy after cancer, made a ‘new’ person out of her. “The new me will not settle for mere existence … I will reach out for what makes my cells dance with joy.”
International icons like Angelina Jolie have also been vocal about their cancer woes, in order to spread awareness and help others seek timely medical help. Jolie suffered from ovarian cancer and was treated by the same doctor who had treated her mother for the same disease.
Genetic tests revealed that Jolie had 87% risk of developing breast cancer. So, she chose to undergo preventive double mastectomy in order to avert this risk. She feels it was the best gift she could give her children, to save them from the fear of losing their mother to breast cancer.
You don’t have to be a celebrity to inspire people with your cancer story. We at Onco.com have introduced to you several survivors whose attitude to life and to cancer has filled several others with hope and strength.
These warriors share their tribulations with cancer honestly, to validate the struggles faced by other cancer patients and also to show them that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Anjali Gadoya is a case in point. She is so full of joie de vivre that she instantly brings a smile to anyone who meets her.
A grandmother, a breast cancer survivor and a rebel who lives life on her own terms, her love for life is worth admiration. From pole dancing to dancing in the rain, she leaves no opportunity to celebrate life on a daily basis.
When Jason Dsouza first interacted with Onco.com, he was unsure of how much he wanted to share about his cancer journey. It was a phase in his life that he prefered to talk less about. But when he attended our support group Talk Your Heart Out, he found his tribe. He found that many who were currently undergoing treatment looked up to him for advice and support because he had been there and done that already.
Soon he found himself mentoring the other patients. They turned to him with their doubts and he gave them a patient ear. He realised how much his support mattered to them and that made him even more willing to help them out.
Good days, Bad days
Of course, in spite of all of the above inspiration, we will still have our bad days. There will be times when we face bouts of regret, self-pity or just plain sadness. And that too is normal.
Australian singer Kylie Minogue who suffered from breast cancer in 2005, says, “You can’t be positive all the time. So I say, when you’re feeling down, when you are having a moment, allow yourself to do that.”
However, if you are looking for a pick-me up, here is the abridged version of the ABCs of being a survivor. While you were undergoing treatment, you probably heard of the ABC juice as being the best drink for cancer patients. This blend of apples, beets and carrots has been a staple in the diet of many cancer patients, the world over.
Here are the ABCs of survivorship.
A – adapt: Your life does not go back to the way it was before. After cancer, a lot of aspects change. On a physical level, you have to allow yourself time to recover, regain your strength and revitalise yourself through nutrition and fitness. On the social front, you may find some relationships have changed since cancer and you may need to accept this change. On the professional front too, you may need to discover ways of being productive with less strength and a different set of priorities.
B – balance: You may find an increase in the level of stress and anxiety in your life. This is a cue for you to create a balance in your mind, through a proportional increase in relaxation and enjoyment. Find activities that help you restore the balance in your life. It could be through music, reading, dance, learning a new language … figure out what makes you happy.
C – contribute: Many survivors feel the urge to give back to society after they are well again. You may want to mentor other cancer patients, or work for a social or economic cause. Using your experience to help others is satisfying for most survivors.
As we celebrate ourselves and others who have faced cancer, let us also recall those who were not lucky enough to make it to this list. Their struggle was no less. They may no longer be with us, but their families and friends will stand testimony to their courage.
And finally, on the occasion of national survivors’ day, we remember all our oncological researchers and practitioners who have dedicated their lives to helping us survive cancer and beyond. May their tribe increase.