Cancer Survivors Are Stronger Together


After being diagnosed with lung cancer, I found a group of patients with a similar diagnosis to me. Together, we protect each other like the clown fish and anemone at the bottom of the sea.

cartoon drawing of blogger and lung cancer survivor, Suzanne Remington

The world has become a divisive place. What used to be healthy discussions of differing opinions have become, in some cases, arguments that polarize family and friends. Race, history, even books have become fair game for creating a “you-vs-them" mentality. I know we will get through these stormy seas in time, and that time can’t come soon enough for most of us.

In the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, no such conflict exists. Therelives the sea anemone and clown fish. They are often seen together because they need each other. Sea anemones have stinging tentacles that sting predators. Clown fish have a magical coating that makes them immune to these stings. When a predator comes after the colorful, alluring clown fish, the anemone steps up and protects them by stinging the predator, then eating it. It’s a great relationship — the clown fish is protected, and the anemone gets its dinner. They not only make each other stronger, they save each other’s life.

I belong to a group of fighters with the same kind of cancer as me. Our non-small cell, non- smokerslung cancer is driven by a mutant gene known as ALK, and our group is called It has been a game changer in my cancer journey. Being an “Alkie” is like living at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

I know that when I feel like something is threatening the well-being of my fellow cancer comrades, my tentacles come out. I want to strike and protect them from our common predator. And when it’s my turn to feel these predatory effects, I know I will find comfort among the outstretched arms of my fellow Alkies. They are the ones whotruly understand this new life in which we have found ourselves. I recommend all those with cancer find their group of like-cancer fighters. You too will learn that, although life opinions may differ, the common goal is all that matters.

Alkies are like clown fish and anemone; we create the calm at the bottom of a turbulent ocean. We’re stronger together.

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Image of Dr. Minesh Mehta at ASCO 2024.