When I started brainstorming a list of experiences and feelings that are unique to cancer survivors, I thought it would be funny. But when I was finished, it seemed more serious and sad than I expected. I guess that in many ways, being a cancer survivor isn’t very fun. It is challenging and scary and sad. But it’s also beautiful and sanctifying and strengthening, as we continue to figure out what it looks like to trust our faithful Lord in all circumstances.
This list is based on my personal experience with being diagnosed in my mid-30’s with a rare cancer that is generally associated with a grim prognosis. It may not reflect the experience of all cancer survivors, and that does not lessen their survivorship in any way.
My goal is not to generalize or define what it means to be a cancer survivor. I hope to shed some light on what cancer survivorship is like for me and possibly help you understand the cancer survivors in your life a little better.
You might be a cancer survivor . . .
- if your goals include outliving the expiration date on your credit card
- if you know how to apply eye makeup to make it look like you have eyelashes when you don’t
- if you know what scanxiety is and exactly how it feels
- if putting your hair in a ponytail makes you really happy
- if you are quick to jump into photos with your kids and not worry if you don’t look perfect
- if you’ve ever had an awkward encounter with a male TSA agent involving a breast prosthesis
- if it takes you fifteen minutes to fill out a medical history form, but you can rattle off your medical record number and date of birth in two seconds flat
- if you’ve ever held your toddler while she slept and begged God to let you live long enough for her to remember you
- if you have a large box of wigs, hats and scarves somewhere in your closet
- if you have plastic surgeons in two states and their work is covered by insurance
- if you get super excited about each and every birthday (and expect everyone around you to do the same!)
- if you can’t remember all your doctors’ names but know the normal ranges for CBC values by heart
- if you love being there for birthday parties, piano recitals, school parties and holidays
- if you date your photos by how much hair you have – before-cancer-hair, no hair, super-short hair, cute-short hair, three-years-post-cancer-shoulder-length hair, etc.
- if you’ve ever asked a doctor how long you have to live
- if you obsess over every ache and pain, bump and bruise
- if you know what it’s like to have hundreds of people praying for you
- if you are thankful for your healthy body, even with all its imperfections and scars
- if you are convinced that God’s faithfulness is true because you’ve seen how He always provides
- if you know that the peace of Christ is real because you’ve experienced in your darkest moments