If it wasn’t for my friends and family, I don’t know how I would have gotten through cancer alone.
One Monday morning I got into my car and drove to the post office to drop off a few care packages to the men who are members of a cancer support group that I lead on Facebook. All of them are either just starting their treatments for their cancer or in the midst ofit.
After I dropped those packages off, I walked over to the card shop next door to pick up a few greeting cards. As I was looking through the cards, I then suddenly realized I needed to pick up five sympathy cards for the loved ones of patients who had died from cancer in the past week. I was thinking at the time that it was the most I have ever had to pick up at any given time. I suddenly went from feeling good emotionally in those moments because I was doing something to support my brothers in treatment to feeling extremely sad by the loss of a few cancer patients I had known battling this disease. How do you face that in your survivorship walk? As survivors, we are told to hold our heads high as we walk through such troubling storms in this cancer-filled life. When these storms hit like ocean waves in this afterlife of cancer it can be very unsettling. In this journey as you move forward in your survivorship it can be hard to stand alone. For me, I appreciate that I don’t have to do this alone because over the last five years I have built a community of support.
Building a community of support for yourself is important in the cancer fight and to be able to support your survivorship from it. I didn’t feel that way in the beginning as I tried to fight cancer alone. Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful wife, family and a couple of good friends that offer tremendous support in my fight with cancer. The truth is that I quickly understood that no one truly understands what you are going through as a cancer patient but another cancer patient. Building relationships with other cancer patients even on social media has been crucial in my own survivorship from cancer. Although my therapist at one time warned me against such social media relationships because as she noted they were not “real relationships.” The truth is you do need to have a certain amount of caution on social media but the ones that have shined through for me have become some of my best friends in the aftermath of cancer. I have been lucky to have been able to connect with a few of them at cancer conferences over the years. Sadly, over the years a few of those friends have passed away, but I will never regret building those relationships and will always hold them dear.
This month I will enter this cancer journey being five years no evidence ofdisease from stage 3b colorectal cancer. I have leaned on some pretty awesome friends in a community that I had never planned to be a part of in this life. In a few weeks, I will travel to a men’s cancer retreat to celebrate with a few of them. We will sit around a campfire, share our cancer stories with one another, laugh and cry together. I will meet a few of them in person for the first time and others I have known from the beginning of my cancer journey. It will definitely be one of those happy and sad moments that I have come accustomed to in the relationships in the cancer space. I don’t deny any of it, as I have learned to accept all of it and keep my heart open to it. To have built this community of support has made my journey complete in the face of cancer.
In a few months I will have one final set of scans to complete my surveillance for my cancer diagnosis. Most people think that when you become cancer free early after your diagnosis you really don’t need additional support because you may no longer be in treatment. I’m grateful to have a community that understands all aspects of my cancer journey. This is why having a community of support for yourself is so important.
For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.