The word “cancer” still makes most people run for cover and shrink in terror, despite the fact that there are so many cancer survivors. This word cancer remains so emotionally laden that many of the most compassionate people I know still struggle not to overtly shrink and hide from us survivors. People feel awkward and just don’t know what to say, or what not to say. The bigger surprise is that there are some people who believe that cancer is contagious.
I do not remember the actual statistic that describes the percentage of our population that have been diagnosed with cancer, but it is high. When you put that number together with the number of direct family members of cancer survivors, I will guess that the number of directly “involved” people approaches 30%. Even though a vast number of us survivors go on to live long lives post diagnosis, the fear – and stigma – remain present.
A significant factor contributing to this problem is that many of us survivors do not talk about our disease. We hide it and we do not talk about how the disease and its treatments affect our lives. We act as if our status as cancer survivors is shameful, or perhaps a punishment for some earlier transgression. We often keep our status a secret and shrouded in the fog.
In order to blow this fog away, turn on the sun light we need to become more honest and candid with our children, our office and work mates, our religious communities and the person next door. We need to speak up and share our experiences honestly. The bottom line is that we need to be brave and be willing to confront our own situations.
Only this honesty and candidness can not only rid our world of the fog, but it will also allow us to become personally comfortable with who we are. We are CANCER SURVIVORS.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW
A Proud Cancer Survivor