With National Cancer Survivors Day on June 6, 2021, some YACCtivists joined forces and answered some questions that shed some light on their cancer experiences, and tools they have found helpful along the way.
What’s one thing you wish you had known about life after cancer?
Andrea: How hard it was going to be physically and mentally to recover.
Ashley: I wish I would’ve known how strong I’d become. Easier said than done, and I likely wouldn’t have become as strong without the hard stuff, but I was a mess after the initial diagnosis and treatment. I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel and spent months in bed, crying every day.
Janelle: I wish I had known that facing your mortality can make the little things in life all the more meaningful and special. On the flip side, just because you’ve stared death in the face, it doesn’t mean that you have to be relentlessly grateful for everything. It’s just as acceptable to have hard days as it is to have easy days.
Jennifer M.: I wish I had known how important connection was/is with other young adults who get it.
Jennifer R.: I wish I had known that cancer doesn’t end with treatment. Instead of hyper-focusing on counting down steps towards becoming cancer-free, I have learned to embrace each day as it comes. Regardless of cancer, we will all have good days and bad days.
Marley: I wish I had known that life after cancer can be beautiful, exciting, and so full of joy. When I was first diagnosed, I struggled to see how life could ever get any better with cancer looming over me. Now that I am moving forwards in my survivorship, I am learning that, despite cancer, my life is very beautiful. There are so many experiences and people that make it a brighter place and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Why (or why not) do you recognize events like National Cancer Survivors Day?
Marley: I recognize National Cancer Survivors Day as a way to honour the friends who I have lost and to celebrate those who I continue to fight alongside. It feels pretty incredible to look at some of the most resilient and brave people I have met along the way and see the power behind their journeys. It’s also a day to recognize how far I have come and all that I have accomplished over the last eight years. It feels more comfortable for me to celebrate my own success on National Cancer Survivors Day than it does to recognize dates like my diagnosis/surgery dates and others that have previously held a negative light in my mind.
Jennifer R.: I recognize National Cancer Survivors Day in my own quiet way. It’s a nice time to reflect on what I have been through and also another reminder that I did survive, and that’s a big deal.
Jennifer M.: I celebrate life and appreciation for it.
Janelle: Sometimes, I really struggle with the word survivor and how it is used in the cancer world. There are many people who have died of cancer who are just as worthy of being celebrated. Honestly, whether I recognize days like National Cancer Survivors Day depends on how I feel when I wake up on that morning.
Ashley: I recognize events like National Cancer Survivors Day because I know how hard it is to be faced with this disease. Through YACC I’ve met some incredible cancer warriors — people who despite their diagnosis/prognosis are doing life on their own terms. It’s inspirational.
Andrea: I recognize it because it’s a day to celebrate surviving and that the fight was worth it.
Besides YACC, what is one tool or resource you want other cancer survivors to know about?
Ashley: I accessed Imerman Angels for support, and I was matched with someone with my exact cancer, around my age, etc. It was a great help to speak to someone who had been through exactly what I had.
Marley: I have found a lot of comfort, support and growth in A Fresh Chapter. Its Ignite program was very transformational for me and has provided me with a lot of opportunity for growth!
Jennifer R.: I think the best resource I have availed of to help better my life after cancer is committing to building strong, healthy relationships with my friends and family. YACC brings a connection like no other, but extending it into our networks we have already created is worthy of our time and energy.
Andrea: The people at Cancerandwork.ca have patience with your healing, and connecting with other cancer survivors will help.
Janelle: Pink Pearl, an organization focused on supporting young women with cancer, is a resource that I found extremely helpful post diagnosis.
Jennifer M.: Ask about your hospital resources. My therapist who specialized in oncology, focusing on young adults, was one of the best resources I found that I did not know was available. Asking for help is okay.