Survivors Speak Out by Sharing Knowledge, Hope, and Inspiration for Coping®‘s 35 Year Anniversary
Coping® with Cancer magazine is proud to be celebrating its 35th year of providing knowledge, hope, and inspiration to people whose lives have been touched by cancer. To commemorate, cancer survivors share what they’ve learned, what gives them hope, and what inspires them.
When it all gets too overwhelming, be still and know.
– Kim Albarelli
Breast cancer survivor
Glens Falls, NY
Are You Dancing Today?
Amidst the avalanche of emails, texts, and bills … the calendar laden with meetings, deadlines, and other responsibilities … the cacophony of traffic jams, parking tickets, and a constant stream of distressing events on the nightly news, it can be a continuous challenge to remember what is truly important in life. What matters. What brings joy. What brings music to the soul. While each person’s list will vary, if you start off with family, friends, health, meaningful work, and fulfilling, creative play, you’re in pretty good shape. I hope that you will continue to find ways – even small ways – to bring your passions into your daily life. And dance on!
As cancer survivors, we possess a drive and a sense of urgency to accomplish what we want. We know the value of our health, the importance of our time, and the preciousness of each breath. We no longer take for granted the days we feel healthy and strong because we have experienced what it feels like to have our bodies disobey and our minds pushed beyond discomfort.
It’s ok NOT to be a warrior and to be scared. The strength will come.
Emphasizing the positive does not minimize the seriousness of cancer, but it does shift our focus. I found much to appreciate as my list of positives grew.
Cancer placed limitations on what I could do, but that didn’t stop me from forging a new path for my life. Let yourself be open to new things. Try things that you have never thought of doing before. Enjoy them. And enjoy yourself.
I fully appreciate the kaleidoscopic mo ments that marked my cancer journey. It was difficult – YES; but it was also meaningfu l and transfor mational.
When treatment ends, there’s an expectation that everything in your life will suddenly revert to normal, but everything doesn’t return to normal right away. Realize that recovery is not a straight line. You may feel better one day but worse the next. That’s normal.
– Bob Riter, author of When Your Life Is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care
Breast cancer survivor
Don’t compare yourself with other cancer survivors. Treatment plans, energy levels, and medication responses are very individual. One person may be able to train for a half marathon du ring treatment. Another may be lucky to get up and out of bed each morning. Both are doing what they can to battle this beast. Try not to judge yourself, or others.
Cancer is a bully. If we cower in the corner, we help it win. But if we tell the proper authorities (doctors), stand up to it, laugh at it, and use weapons like healthy foods and positive affirmations, we swing the odds in our favor. I will do everything to not leave my kids without a mom and my husband without a wife. I will continue to fight, continue to laugh, continue to sit and experience life. Without this and all its lessons, I would have merely lived. Now I thrive!
I will never consider cancer a gift, although others say they see it that way. I do have to acknowledge that it has made me live a more rewarding life. I wish I could have done that on my own, without this scare, but it didn’t happen that way.
Life is too precious and short, so get out there and go explore. Take advantage of the second opportunity, the second chance, the second life that w e – cancer survivors – have. Don’t be afraid to take chances and try things that you may have been scared to do before but now you have a second lease on life. Go out there and do something.
Allow yourself to feel ever y emotion that will come. You are allowed to be scared, confused, sad and angry. You are allowed to be left alone. You are allowed to tell people you don’t want to keep repeating what the doctor says over and o ver. You are fighting for yo ur life, you are allowed to be selfish and take as much time to yourself as you need.
I actually rode my bike to and from each of my chemotherapy sessions.
And that was my way of getting a little victory and a little activity every day.
Losing my hair forced me to assess the entire package. I want to gracefully accept my wrinkles, my uneven breasts, and my new hair. I think I’m doing a good job of liking the new me.
– Felicia Carparelli
Breast cancer survivor
What is more manly than facing your biggest fears head on? To all those men out there, I say this: make health your priority.
I believe that positive energy trumps negative every time. When circumstances – like cancer – are out of our control, then the only option we really have is choosing how we want to go through that experience. I’d rather make something miserable more fun than stay in a mental state that makes the experience feel worse. Practicing positivity, in both little and big ways, can make any outcome a better one. Besides, it might even create some smiles along the way.
Trying to live up to that “keep it positive” expectation often put on cancer survivors is exhausting and, quite honestly, fake. However, when I “keep it real,” it allows me to actively grieve over how my life has changed since cancer, and helps me move closer to accepting those changes.
Along my journey, I realized I didn’t fight alone. Though I was alone in chemotherapy, alone in the radiation machine, I had a team of people cheering me on.
– Debbie Tackes
Speaker and coauthor of It’s Not About You, It’s About Those You Love Colorectal cancer survivor
Am I lucky? Yes, I am. I’m alive. Does my ‘luck’ discount my experience? No, it doesn’t. The fact is, I faced down a life-threatening disease.
How we choose to fight our fight matters. There is a deep and powerful shift from fighting against something to fighting for something. Once the latter is fully embraced, everything changes. It transforms how w e nourish ourselves and the thoughts w e choose to hold, and it summons our instinct to turn inward for answers, even as we seek outward help.
Know that infinite patience is required. While we all hope for a good outcome and an end to dealing with this illness, there are millions of us who continue to live with cancer. Like with any journey, storms come up, detours are taken, and you may feel lost for a while. Patience and flexibility are almost mandatory. Look for opportunities to rest and restore your spirit. Know that your experience with cancer can indeed be a journey of healing.
Even since I was first diagnosed, I’ve been able to separate myself from my illness.
When you allow yourself to be open to a good cleansing cry, you will reap a nice reward – a kinder, more compassionate you.
I realized that my reaction to my own testicular cancer surgery was an indicator of a larger societal issue: men don’t want to talk about anything that might make them seem less … manly.
My life was irrevocably changed by cancer. But it is also changed by getting out of bed every morning and tackling whatever comes down the pike. I just have to remember to embrace the lessons with gratitude, alongside everything else on my gratitude list.
– Mary Dunnewold, author of Fine Thanks: Stories from the Cancerland Jungle
Breast cancer survivor
Hope is the name of the game when you’re given unsettling news. Surround yourself with positive people and positive energy.
– Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo, author
Multiple myeloma survivor
Here’s the thing, I wasn’t interested in becoming the anal cancer spokesperson. […] I really think to destigmatize it is the way to go. It’s just silly … We all have one.It’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of.
I pledged that we would get through this one the same way we had gotten through all his other challenges. After all, this is what love looks like.
Every day I remind myself, “Be present.” It’s so easy for me to race aead to the next mountain to be climbed that I am not present in the present.
– William Ramshaw
Author of Gut Punched! Facing Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer survivor
Courage comes in many forms. It takes a special kind of daring for us as survivors to step beyond our comfort zones, allowing others to see not only our strength but also our vulnerability.
I know that I can be basking in the glory of survivorship one moment and falling deep into the bleak crevice of recurrence the next. I also know that it won’t do any good to spend my life worrying about those opposing realities. Instead, I’ve had to learn to live fully despite the “what-ifs”.
– Jill Weiskopf Brufsky
Acute myelogenous leukemia survivor
Let’s honor those who have passed, by living the best life we can for as long as we can. Live your story as true as you can. This is how we can make our survival worthy.
– Kathryn Davis
Metastatic breast cancer survivor
By finding humor in the events and oddities I’ve faced during this struggle with cancer, I have been able to make the enormous small and the unmanageable manageable.
There is a moment after a cancer diagnosis where most people are enveloped in extreme fear. Then, with most cancer survivors I have spoken with, there is this awakening that comes unexpectedly. You almost instantly become more courageous, powerful, focused, and alive than you’ve ever been. You stand up to fight back this disease with a strength you never anticipated. I am grateful for my cancer, because I now know the value and gratitude of being alive. It changed the course of my life for the better, and I will always remember my cancer as a fork in the road that took me to where I am today.
The human spirit is precious and deserves nourishment. Look in the mirror every day, think of one thing you like about your life and yourself, and voice it out loud. Ask yourself, Am I doing what I want with this life? Am I influencing others in a positive way? What small steps can I take that will lead me to be my best?
Here’s the thing – cancer doesn’t care how old you are, how much money you make, or how good of a person you are. Cancer can happen to anyone. But it doesn’t have to be the end of your story. You have the power to move your life in any direction you dream.
You’ve got to fall back on your strengths and forget about your weaknesses when you’re going through something like this.
I had learned that a successful life meant noticing, enjoying, and reveling in the small moments. Simple joys are relative; they are different for different people and for where they are in life … Life isn’t one big thing; it’s several tiny moments.
Yes, your life will be forever changed, and yes, your life will be turned upside down for a while, but even during this unplanned tumultuous part of your life, you deserve – no, you need to make your plans. Maintaining your will to live and your ability to put one foot in front of the other is, in my opinion, just as important as what medical science can do for you. Both must work hand in hand.
– Lynda Peterson
Through my journey and faith, I discovered who I could be in spite of my medical circumstances. The lessons I have learned from my cancer experiences and my circumstances do not dictate my future. I look at my adversities and know I am a survivor and overcomer. My future has limitless possibilities.
Once I stopped fighting and resisting what simply was, once I surrendered, I opened myself to worlds of experience and insights I had no idea even existed.
– Michael J. Russer
Speaker and thought leader
Prostate cancer survivor
Some people view the storm as a profound spiritual experience that proves life changing. I have to confess, I had no such experience of enlightenment during cancer. I did however have an abundantly clear understanding of what constitutes my quality of life, and a dogged insistence upon having it.
– Amy Bryant
Breast cancer survivor
It taught me that sometimes you have to fight through the bad days to earn the best days of your life.
Life can get back to normal. It’s even better after. That’s hard to see at the moment, but that’s how it was in my case.
If you bury your head in the sand, you won’t see the real threats coming, and that is what leaves you the most vulnerable. To overcome trouble, you must acknowledge it, understand it, and address it at the earliest possible stage.
Laughter and positivity spilled into every aspect of my journey, and I held onto my sense of humor as cancer challenged my sense of self and my sense of identity. It was certainly the hardest time of my life, but in the end, a hefty prescription of tumor humor is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Through it all, I’m still me, and I didn’t allow cancer to take away who I am or what I stand for. I’m a survivor, and I can go on and still look and feel beautiful and shine brighter.
– Karen Rice
Breast and colon cancer survivor
There are moments in all our lives that can be painful and humiliating, but as a cancer survivor, I’ve come to realize those moments are the ones we look back on, appreciate most, and sometimes, even laugh about.
Anytime the word cancer comes up, it’s hard not to conjure worst-case scenarios. I think the more we can tell stories about these good outcomes, the more people realize there’s hope.
I believe we all have many things and people and dreams in our lives that help keep us fighting. You know yours, just like I knew mine.
I see everything differently! The biggest difference is that I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. If I can beat cancer, everything else is a piece of pie!
More inspiration coming soon!
Everyone has a unique story or message to share. Do you want to share your survivor story or inspirational quote? We consider a cancer survivor to be anyone living with a history of cancer – from diagnosis through the remainder of life. Here are our submission guidelines.