Who Is a Cancer Survivor?
The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) defines a cancer survivor as "any person living with cancer at any time." Inherent in this definition is the important shift of a cancer patient from victim to survivor. Although this definition serves to create a sense of belonging in the cancer patient community, the requirements of cancer patients are quite heterogeneous and incredibly sensitive to the disease process and its increasingly complex medical management. The healthcare professional is confronted with the need to sustain hopefulness and optimism when there is uncertainty. It is a genuine skill to avoid offering false hope in interactions with the patient and family who want certainty to have some sense of control in planning for the future.
From the moment of a confirmed cancer diagnosis, the patient and family will be confronted with levels of complexity and distress that will change them forever. From this traumatic event onward, the person becomes a patient, and enters an uncertain world where he or she will encounter multiple transitions and be challenged in ways that may be profoundly threatening and foreign. The ability to face challenges with courage is deeply ingrained in the human spirit, and enables the cancer patient to focus fear into meaningful activity. These reluctant warriors are now cancer survivors. The term "survive" has traditionally been used to refer to bereaved family as well, as in "Mr. Jones is survived by his sister and two nieces." Because family and caregivers also survive the cancer experience, both before and after the patient's death, the term is not restricted to patients. Interventions and support must be extended to include family members and caregivers.
If you know a person with cancer and the odds are that you do, give them a call or a great big hug if you see them today. :0)