Survivor is defined by the National Cancer Institute as “one who remains alive and continues to function during and after overcoming a serious 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.” https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/survivor
Being a metastatic breast cancer patient and living with the disease for 11 years I can fully relate to this word. Month to month survivorship consists of getting up and going to treatment every three weeks wondering if the medicine is still working or not. My FAITH tells me GOD will do what he needs to do to keep me alive through the medicine. I do what I have to do to not only maintain a good quality of life but maintain some sense of balance between cancer and everyday life. I’m on my fourth progression and in July 2018 I decided then I would enter into a clinical trial. Surviving 7-10-hour days, every three weeks of an unknown clinical trial with a multitude of side-effects all the while getting 6-week scans is how I will continually survive.
I often ask myself, “Why do I place labels on the way I live because of a cancer diagnosis? I never placed a constant label on myself before my diagnosis.”
Day-to-Day survivorship is getting up and doing all the things I’ve done daily before cancer. Establishing normalcy in my life has always been my priority while also making sure there is normalcy in the lives of those I love. Surviving cancer is a grueling experience that can define my every existence if I let it overpower me. I ensure that I give myself a great deal of self-care and self-love because I deserve that. I also have chosen to attend therapy sessions to help me gather the nonessential thoughts that sometimes enter into my life.
Finding balance through advocacy and helping others is what drives me every day. Accepting my diagnosis at the age of 43 was the hardest obstacle I have ever faced. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and she died in 2004 and her death changed my life forever. I survive mentioning her name as many times as I can when I speak because it reminds me of how her legacy is continuing through me. My parents are my pride and joy. Hearing my dad’s voice and talking with him and hearing the joy in his smile when I call to tell him my scans are stable is how I continue to beat cancer. My dad and my daughter are my motivation to not give up.
So, what does being a Survivor mean to me…getting up every day and making SHIT happen for the breast cancer space! Making this world a better place for the people I love and to not stop SURVIVING until breast cancer is NO MORE.