June is National Cancer Survivor’s Month—what does that mean for you?

There is much to honor and celebrate in the month of June—summer is officially here, weather is beautiful, new scientific advancements are expanding in the news—and we also honor the over 18 million cancer survivors in the United States. While that is an incredible number of people, it is important to acknowledge that calling oneself a “survivor” is a personal, and sometimes emotional, decision.

For some people diagnosed with cancer, it may be a matter of timing; some feel they are a “survivor” from the moment of diagnosis. Others do not like to use the term “survivor” until they have completed treatment or are told they have no evidence of disease. There are others who do not like to use the term at all for various reasons, including cultural and feeling labeled. It just may not feel right, and that is ok. Many people have shared using the word “survivor” may have emotional ties—both of relief, and for some, like a weight or burden they carry at all times. 

The bottom line is, we all need to be sensitive to the fact the cancer journey is individual—it is not the same for every person and we can’t expect everyone to react the same way to some of these kinds of proclamations or events. “It isn’t just about the rah-rah”, as a patient recently shared with me.  A diagnosis of cancer means a new normal, and that is an ongoing process with many changes that you may not have wanted.

We want to celebrate, honor, support and acknowledge people who are living with a cancer diagnosis, while also respecting that there is no right or one way to do this. We want to encourage colleagues, family, friends and healthcare providers to ask what people need and honor their perspectives, choices and what they deem as important milestones for them.

As our friends in the advocacy community say, “no one should face cancer alone”.  In June, and every month, we stand with the journeys, the stories and the experiences that make you who you are. You are more than a cancer diagnosis, and more than a month–there is much to celebrate every day and we believe in you.