For many years I have participated in my local Relay For Life event because I saw cancer affect my family more than I ever wanted to see it. I wanted to see better detection methods, treatments, and maybe even a cure one day.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I quickly jumped on board to help plan the event for the next year. I thought the place that would suit me the best was the Survivor Chair. I had recent cancer experience and thought I was able to connect best with other cancer survivors.
Over the past few years working in that position, I’ve realized that everyone has a story. They have their own diagnosis and treatment stories. They have their own frustrations and successes. They have the desire to tell others, or they opt to ignore it.
I started to live my life differently after I was diagnosed. Growing up with a speech issue often left me to be the last one to talk for fear of what people would say. It carried into my adult life, especially if I was in a group of people I was unfamiliar with. However, being told “you have breast cancer” at the age of 33 changed me. I had become vocal for the first time in my life. I was that person on social media that announced her diagnosis, her treatment plan, and that everyone should at least do a self-examination. I was not afraid to tell my story to those that wanted to listen. I was open and honest about everything – I still am! I felt that if I could tell my story, then hopefully I could help someone in the process.
Through my volunteering, I have come across three types of cancer survivors. There are those survivors that have decided to keep their cancer in the forefront of their life. I guess I could be considered one of them with my blog. Then, there are those people that fought through their cancer and survived never wanting to relive their experience again. They do not want to acknowledge their cancer and simply want to forget it. And then, of course, there are those that live somewhere in the middle – the place that I hope to be.
Looking at these types of survivors, I can completely relate to each and every one of them. There are times where I want to stop acknowledging my cancer and move on. There comes a time in your life where you just don’t want to relive it day in and day out. Maybe for some of those survivors, they had such a struggle through their cancer that forgetting it ever happened is the best way for them to survive. I understand that wanting to keep cancer somewhere near the top of their life could eventually help save their life from another cancer diagnosis. Some of those survivors use their experience, strength, and courage to move forward in helping the cancer society as a whole.
Everyone is different, period. Every survivor has the right to choose how they want to live their life after cancer. If they want to be the ones that shy away from events like the Relay For Life Survivor Lap, then let them do it. They might not be ready to accept their cancer diagnosis or they might be the ones that don’t ever want to look back. They have that right – even if it’s not the way you see it. If it’s that survivor who keeps thinking of their cancer, don’t think it’s wrong. Maybe it’s their cancer experience that keeps them walking one foot in front of the other day after day.
You see, we might be able to comprehend what a patient goes through; we can sympathize with a cancer survivor. However, we cannot truly understand what is going through their mind since every mind is different. We need to appreciate every survivor’s desires.
Angela Banker is a mother, a wife, a daughter, and a sister; she is also a young survivor, a caregiver, a supporter, and a fighter. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 33, and found herself empowered to share her story to raise awareness about breast cancer. Angela participates in Relay For Life, started the Sisters Beating Breast Cancer page to inspire others, and continues to "fight like a girl" with the hope that her daughter will never have to hear the dreaded words, "You have cancer."