Five Tips for Celebrating National Survivors Day

National Survivors DayToday we celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day—a day to celebrate survivorship as well as bring attention to the fact that winning cancer doesn’t always signify that the battle has ended.

Life after #cancer exists, but one should never expect it to follow familiar trajectories. #NCSD2016 Click To Tweet

It’s a day to cheer on those who survived as well as acknowledge that survivors face ongoing challenges. Cancer changes everything—it changes one both physically and financially; it causes trauma in family members and caregivers; it can alter the course of one’s career.

All too often the survivor never mentions the subtext of those multiple ‘survivorships.’ But the reality of life post cancer can prove just as overwhelming as life during cancer.

In our case, cancer’s ravages left Pedro in a weakened state that took over a year to recover from. To this day, he has neuropathy (nerve damage) in his right foot that prevents him from enjoying hiking great distances. The chemo drugs also caused necrosis (death) of the bones in his hips and about seven years after cancer he had to go through core decompression surgery on one of his hips. Eventually, he’ll need a hip replacement.

Each of those subsequent treatments puts a financial strain on our family. A clean bill of health doesn’t mean that a survivor no longer has to worry about financial stresses and corollary health issues. It took us 12 years to pay off cancer. For some families, it takes even longer.

The emotional toll can nibble at different family members like a piranha, quietly wounding the soul until the wound festers and rises to the surface. In retrospect, I wish I would have signed the family up for counseling to treat the wounds as they happened—it may have made a difference. On the other had, I can’t let regret become a piranha in my life.

Cancer survivorship can cause upheaval at work as well. Pedro lost his job because of his cancer, and it took nine long years and additional schooling to rejoin the education workforce as a full-time employee again.

Of course, his experiences during those nine years working in construction, building a house, substitute teaching, and going to school uniquely prepared him for the job he holds now as the principal of a private school that operates almost exclusively on donations.

Remission from Cancer Doesn’t Equal Remission from Its Consequences

#Remission from #cancer doesn't mean remission from it's consequences. #NCSD2016 Click To Tweet

These five tips for celebrating a survivor will help you think outside the box when it comes to celebrating with a survivor.

1. When you celebrate a survivor, remember that that battle might not be over—it’s just being fought on a different front.
2. Continue to come alongside a survivor (which means listen more and talk less).
3. Don’t be afraid to ask sensitive questions—What do you find the most difficult part of your life after cancer? or I know you’re in remission, but do you still need support in any way?
4. Offer to help. Maybe the survivor could use free childcare once a month to reconnect with a spouse. Perhaps the survivor needs help cleaning the house or shopping for groceries as they build back their strength.
5. Give advice sparingly (and only when asked). Survivors don’t need to hear about your neighbor George’s second-cousin-once-removed who had cancer and went on to win an Olympic medal).

What about you? Do you have a survivor you’d like to acknowledge?  Tell us a little about them and their battle and leave a line of kudos and encouragement (and don’t forget to let them know in person, too). 

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up an inspirational post.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!


 Loading InLinkz ...

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great post, Anita. And I am so happy for you and Pedro!

    One thing I would add…many survivors may find themselves superstitious, and one’s being too congratulatory may make them very uncomfortable…almost like inviting bad luck, and a return of the malignancy.

    It may be best to say, “I’m so glad you’re doing well!” rather than “Yay! Congratulations on The Cure!”
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 163 – Saving Strawberry {FMF}My Profile

  • Oh, great advice, Andrew!
    Anita Ojeda recently posted…Finding Haven on EarthMy Profile

  • It has been a long time since I’ve been able to link up with you, Anita. And I really appreciate today’s post. Thank you for being honest about the challenges and for offering advice on how to be there for survivors.

  • My twenty-eight year old daughter was recently diagnosed with skin cancer. I was out of town and when she called me with the diagnosis my heart sunk and my knees went weak. I remembered the difficulty of watching my mother’s 18-month struggle with cancer which she finally lost at the age of 66. After my initial reaction, God gave me a sense of peace. I asked him to cover my daughter with his love and protection. I thanked him for prompting her to see her doctor early. Surgery took place the following week and I wasn’t surprised when the results came back cancer free. I praised God openly and reminded my daughter of the hope we have in God, that he wants good for us.

  • Thank you for sharing this with us, Anita. We hear so much rejoicing over beating cancer, but we fail to realize that the battle is not quite over because of all the post cancer circumstances. Thank you for the tips and helping me realize that even after cancer, there are many hurdles to jump through. Blessings to you, dear Anita!
    Gayl Wright recently posted…*Expectations and Settling into LifeMy Profile

  • Pingback: *Expectations and Settling into Life | Gayl Wright()

  • interesting post anita. very helpful:)
    martha brady recently posted…IS THE CHURCH READY FOR YOU?…My Profile

  • Very helpful post, and I love the “during” and “after” pictures of Pedro’s cancer.