A Message from Survivor Journeys™ on National Cancer Survivor’s Day
The first Sunday in June is National Cancer Survivor’s Day. It is a day to remember those that have lost their war with cancer, those that continue to struggle with their cancer and treatment side effects, and those that have been fortunate to have little or no sequelae.
In my journey as a cancer survivor, I have been fortunate to enjoy many family and professional milestones, that to be honest, I never thought would come to pass. I have met many people who have experienced cancer, which includes their families, and caregivers. As a primary care physician for more than 30 years, I have treated these people, and many have become friends. We have shared many stories, tears, and laughs.
Cancer survivorship (living before, during, and after cancer treatment) support services have been inadequate in our community and nationwide. Survivor Journeys™ (SJ), a non-profit organization, was founded to provide emotional, social, and educational support for cancer survivors, their families, and caregivers.
There are an estimated 17 million cancer survivors (defined as the moment you are diagnosed with cancer) in our country. A high percentage of these people have seen an oncologist. However, only a fraction of the 17 million have been engaged with cancer survivorship support services. The reasons for this include inadequate cancer survivorship support services, lack of referrals to these services by oncologists and primary care physicians, self doubt about expressing personal fears and anxieties, and ignoring concerns.
There needs to be improvement in creating awareness about cancer survivorship. This would include expanding Pink October throughout the year by becoming more inclusive of ALL people who have experienced cancer, including their caregivers and families.
Creating awareness must also recognize that not every person who has been diagnosed with cancer associates with the label of cancer survivor. I do believe this is a major factor why this population does not reach out for support services. Perhaps we should change the label to “cancer experiencer.” This is much more inclusive. Now, experiencer is not a word, but influencer was not a word until May 2019, so we will press on.
Survivor Journeys™ has always prided itself on reaching out to all people who have experienced cancer, including caregivers, and families. We now have eight support groups that are all virtual because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Just this year we have developed a new Breast cancer support group, a Mom’s with Cancer support group, “What Do You Do When…” support group that discusses issues with activities of daily living, and a Spanish speaking Any Cancer support group (one of the few in the nation). Our Cancer Survivorship 101 educational series which is now virtual and monthly, brings national leaders and topics to our community and beyond. Our mentoring program connects those who are further along on their cancer journey with those that are struggling. We also have a pet therapy program.
For Survivor Journeys to achieve its mission, we need to hear from you. Email, snail mail, or phone us (see below) with reasons you participate in our programs or why not. Let us know what programs you would like us to develop. Consider becoming involved as a volunteer. Discuss our programs with your oncologist, primary care physician, social worker, friends, family, and co-workers. Take some time to look at our website, www.survivorjourneys.org.
Are you a business owner that has experienced cancer? We want to hear from you.
Are you a caregiver or family member who has had a loved one that experienced cancer? We want to hear from you.
Are you a HR manager that has cancer experiencers that need cancer survivorship support services? We want to hear from you.
In addition, please remember that Survivor Journeys is a non-profit organization that provides free services. We exist based on the kind support of people who recognize we provide necessary emotional, social, and educational support. Please consider any donation that you can afford. Between one to two people out of three will develop cancer in their lifetime. They will need treatment, but they will also need support, as will their caregivers and families. Remember the family member, friend, or even yourself who struggled living life with cancer. Help us to continue to provide cancer survivorship support services to those that have experienced cancer in our community and beyond.