NATIONAL CANCER SURVIVOR MONTH
The moment we survive and conquer something challenging in our lives, a sense of happiness, appreciation and victory often overwhelms us. The feeling is not different for those who survive the cancer journey, most of them say that they eventually start appreciating life more than they did before. On this month, June, we celebrate all cancer survivors. They surely deserve a trophy after overcoming such a tough journey
Surviving cancer or survivorship is often described in different ways which include:
- Having no disease after the completion of treatment
- The process of living with, through, and beyond cancer.
Cancer survivor is a term that describes a person from the moment of diagnosis onwards as long as they live. It also includes people who continue to have treatment to either reduce risk of recurrence or to manage chronic disease.
Seasons of survivorship
Doctors and nurses tend to use the following terms to specifically describe the period of survivorship:
- Acute survivorship: This describes the period of the experience of diagnosis and treatment
- Extended survivorship: This is a time for “watchful waiting”. The period immediately after treatment is completed.
- Permanent survivorship: the longer passage of time since completed treatment, usually measured in years.
In Kenya, the rate of cancer survivor is rising day by day especially due to cancer awareness and improvement in the health sector. A few years back people viewed cancer as a deadly disease that could not be cured at all.People are also embracing and supporting cancer patients and survivors. This is crystal through the various NGOs supporting cancer patients such as Faraja Cancer Support Trust and the events being held to support cancer survivors such as the 1st National Cancer Survivorship Conference 2016 that was held at Hilton on February through the Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations.
When a cancer patients starts their treatment, they can’t wait to finish it but when they finish it they are usually not so sure if they are ready to face the life after treat as a cancer survivor. This is because they are exposes to the following challenges.
- Fear of recurrence: Though cancer survivors may go for years without a sign of recurrence the though of it freaks them out and this tends to affect their emotional well being.
- Stress and anxiety: When one is undergoing the treatment they have their days scheduled on therapies and exercises to take. When they are declared cancer free they end up having a completely different to do list and this might create anxiety and stress since there a lot of things competing for their attention.
- Relationships. During treatment some relationships may grow closer other apart and at times even gain new ones. Ignored relationship problems prior to cancer diagnosis can surface since The entire family changes from the cancer experience in ways they may not be aware of.
- Physical side effects which may include: Vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, nausea, weight loss, blood clots, weight loss among others. These are very common among the cancer survivors.
The following are the various ways in which a cancer survivor can overcome the following challenges.
- Taking care of your body by eating a healthy diet, having enough sleep, excising and being active spiritually.
- Go to all your follow up visits with their primary care physician and their oncologist. Doctors can explain what is happening to a survivor’s body and how it can be treated.
- Get all your follow up tests and discuss them with your doctor.Together, you will formulate a specific follow-up plan based on your specific situation.
- Keep yourself busy through books attending social gatherings hanging out with friends and family and so on.
- Be open about your fears and find someone whom you can talk to about all those feelings. A problem shared is a problem solved.
- Try to redefine yourself through searching and embracing your hobbies. Find out what interests you most and hold onto it.
The truth is in this life we face so many challenges and cancer is one of them. But once we develop a positive attitude no matter how hard it may seem, we come to realize that we are stronger than we tend to think. sometimes you have to fight some bad days to earn the best days of your life.
Wairimu E. Wagacha