Survivorship is defined by the dictionary as the state of being a survivor of life in long-term survivorship (five years or longer) after experiencing a life threatening illness (i.e. cancer).  I have come to learn that its meaning is a little bit different than this.  The first time my mom, sister, and I did the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was in 2009.  It was about 3 months after my mom’s breast cancer diagnosis.  At the race, my mom did not do any of the special things with the survivors because she said she didn’t feel like a survivor yet.  I know now that even though she hadn’t had her surgeries yet, she was a survivor from the day she was diagnosed.

Despite being too humble to take the title of ‘survivor’ at first my mom had an attitude of ‘when can things go back to normal?’ from the beginning.  She constantly bugged doctors asking how soon she could go back to work after surgeries.  She had that ‘half full’ mentality that kept our family with our heads up despite everything that was going on.

Since the becoming connected with the Ulman Cancer Fund I have learned the importance of instilling this attitude in others.  You have to think of yourself as a survivor from day one and never give up hope.  I’ve learned survivorship doesn’t happen just after cancer is completely gone from your body- although that is what you are fighting for.  You are a survivor is you embrace each day with hope and optimism.

I feel so lucky to be apart of an organization whose mission is to instill hope into young adult.  This year, my mom walked as a survivor at the Susan G. Komen race and I am so proud of her.

About Kelly Schwab

Intern at the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults Graphic Design
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1 Response to Survivorship

  1. Sam Kelly says:

    Great blog. Love you guys.

    My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2009 and only walked in the 2010 Race For the Cure after myself, my sister, and my Aunt signed up to raise money and repeatedly asked her to walk with us. She had completed treatment at this point (except for nipple reconstruction), but still felt EXTREMELY uncomfortable participating in such an event. She wanted to jump out of her skin standing in line for survivor registration, she refused to wear the survivor t-shirt until the last 1/2 mile of the walk, and looked like she was going to throw up at the end of the walk when she was sent down the lane of cheering volunteers.

    As a (young adult) cancer survivor myself, I understood her reluctance and uncomfortable feelings. I think it was a lot for her to take in all at once. While she appreciated that everyone was there raising money and support for something that was now a huge part of both her life and the lives of everyone in our family, I think she wasn’t ready to “celebrate”. I’m 8 years out from my cancer diagnosis and I don’t really feel ready to “celebrate” either. While I recognize the importance of fund-raising events (and I participate in them), I’ve never been one who liked being the center of attention. I find my personality and experiences (and those of my mother) are best suited for a program/event that focuses on direct interaction between fellow survivors/ survivors and cancer patients. Programs that are more about relationships and dialogues than celebrating. Fitting of that, my Mom has just signed up to be a volunteer/mentor with Franklin Square Hospital’s ‘Survivors Offering Support’. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

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