Being diagnosed and treated for brain cancer changed my life. The experience forced me to face my own mortality and helped me realize what is essential in life. Soon after I finished active treatment in 2015, I started hearing the term cancer survivor. I learned that the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center where I received treatment was starting a survivorship program. I was excited to learn about this program as surviving cancer was a good feeling, but it came with many issues that I did not know how to deal with. When you are in active treatment, you have a great deal of support. You have a team who listens to you about side effects from chemo and who will investigate any complaints you have. After active treatment is over, you don’t get the same kind of attention. You are on your own, and it takes time to adjust to what many of us call our ‘new normal.’
A survivor is defined as one who remains alive and continues to function during and after overcoming a severe hardship or life-threatening disease. In cancer, a person is considered to be a survivor from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.
Today, I went to my first cancer survivorship workshop at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. I was excited to attend this workshop as I realize I need help with coming to terms with what happened to me and where my life is going. The meeting was held in the waiting room where I sat many times waiting for lab work, to be called in for a chemo treatment or to meet a doctor or other team member for an appointment. The room was filled with women and a few men of all ages. As I talked to a few of the people at the meeting, I knew we all shared a common bond, we all had some type of cancer that brought us to this meeting, we were all survivors.
The meeting consisted of sessions presented by professionals who work in various programs that are part of the Survivorship Program at the University of Miami. We heard about Nutrition for Survivorship, Sexual Healing, Reentry into Life after Cancer Treatment, The Vital Role of Sleep and Meditation, Movement is Healing and Stress Management with Music. After the various lectures were over, there was time for questions and answers with the various presenters. It was an empowering day, and I am glad I was able to attend. I learned I was not alone, that I along with the other survivors all have the same fears that include worries such as: will cancer will return, will the chemo work the second time around, what can I do to help prevent a reoccurrence and other such thoughts.
Survivorship programs offer services that can help cancer survivors address their fears and work through challenges. I am grateful to have this program in my community and will be taking advantage of the various programs they offer as I continue on my journey.
If you have cancer or know someone who has had cancer, recommend they ask about a survivorship program where they received treatment so they can get the help they need be a survivor. If you have had the opportunity to participate in a survivorship program, feel free to share your experience in the comment section below.
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