How I Created the Cancer Community I Needed When None Could Be Found
by Cindy Lupica
As I approach my 9th cancerversary, it occurs to me that I have entered the long-term survivorship phase. And I find myself reflecting on my journey. As I look back on the now-paved trails that have brought me to where I am today, I can’t help but think about how I became an accidental cancer advocate and about the women I’ve met along the way.
In my own desperateness for community and support after being diagnosed with an aggressive gestational cancer called choriocarcinoma, my drive to find other survivors with the same kind of cancer forced me into an advocacy role strictly because my type of cancer is considered rare. One day, I found myself lying in a hospital bed, searching for fellow survivors, and signing up for social media accounts just to obtain any possible support, and finding truly little. Before I knew it, I was taking the lead, creating platforms for such much-needed support for survivors of cancers like mine and learning how to navigate these foreign-to-me apps and websites.
I soon realized that putting my personal testimony out there was not only a byproduct of my desperate need to connect and be heard, but it was the first step to my healing, even as I continued to receive weekly cancer treatments, at times not sure of my own outcome. If my story could reach just one person, it would be worth all the discomfort of putting it out there, breaking sacred privacy as my survivor story began to spread.
I remember when I met my first survivor sister. She trailed right behind me by about four to six months at the same hospital where I had been treated. Our oncology nurse arranged for us to meet. I was so ecstatic to see a face that could relate to my experience.
If my story could reach just one person, it would be worth all the discomfort of putting it out there, breaking sacred privacy as my survivor story began to spread.
The second fellow survivor I met was completely unexpected. While attending my first American Cancer Society Relay for Life, I was handing out flyers sharing my cancer story and contact information when there she was!
The idea for the flyers had come from someone I met online – a mom whose daughter had succumbed to the same type of cancer I had. She and the precious few others like her whom I connected with online were the reasons I decided I had to be a voice for people facing this rare cancer. Even through my survivor’s guilt, I knew my story needed to be heard. I could not go on with life as if nothing had happened to me. My survivorship was for a reason. I had a purpose – this was it, and it was just the beginning.
In the summer of 2018, I hosted an incredibly special beach luncheon for my survivor sisters from all over the world. It was deeply healing for us all. And it was then that I realized the impact I had made on these women, and the others I’ve connected with through my advocacy. It was beyond my comprehension, especially since I was still healing myself. This was my healing! The fruits of my labor were pouring out blessings back onto me through these survivors and their families.
As my 9th year of cancer survivorship nears, I am now a certified cancer coach, having taken my advocacy to the next level. I am also studying to be a personal trainer, with the hopes of becoming a cancer exercise specialist. My passion continues to be helping others become their best selves during and following a cancer diagnosis and treatment. I believe every person has a story, and every story has a purpose. This is mine.
Cindy Lupica, mother of four, is a survivor of choriocarcinoma, a rare type of cancer that usually develops from cells that remain inside the body after a pregnancy. Cindy’s cancer resulted from her youngest daughter’s undeveloped twin, a molar pregnancy. Cindy is also an author, public speaker, and widow. You can learn more about Cindy’s story and her cancer coaching services by visiting her website: cindylupica.com.