For years, I have shared my cancer survivor journey on this blog.  In turn, many of you have left comments in response to many of the blog posts.  (Thank you!! You all rock!) I’d like to magnify that by opening the stage for all cancer survivors to use their voice by commenting at the end of this post.

You can voice anything through your comments, as long as it is relates to your cancer survivor journey.  This is your space to connect with others, help others, vent, inspire, and give back.  For many of us, cancer can drain our energy, darker our spirit and quiet our voice.  Fight the Fight!! Speak up and use your voice by sharing your comments!  If it helps, here are some questions to get your minds going:

  • Where are you in your cancer survivor journey?
  • What lessons have you learned from having cancer?
  • What gets you through the fear and difficult times?
  • Are you putting off any kind of medical follow-up like a doctor visit, scan, blood work?
  • How has your outlook on life changed?
  • Has cancer had an impact on your relationships with your spouse/partner, children, family, friends, co-workers, self?
  • What would you tell someone who was just diagnosed with cancer?
  • Did you find an inner-strength and or stronger connection with a higher energy, spirit or source during your cancer survivor journey?
  • What have you done to give back and help others fight the fight?
  • Has your cancer survivor journey inspired you in some way?  If so, what did you do with that inspiration?
  • Do you still feel stuck in a “cancer mindframe” even though you’re in remission?
  • Are you living life beyond cancer?

If you would like to comment on one of the questions or more, then go for it! If not, please voice your own thoughts.

Thank you!!

Part of my mission is to provide useful information to others about the cancer survivor experience.  It hit me today that I have not posted anything about the cancer basics.  Knowledge is power, so let’s take a moment to learn about cancer.  What is cancer?  I am not in the medical field.  So I turned to the experts at the American Cancer Society to answer this question.  Below are the details from the American Cancer Society’s What is Cancer page:

What is cancer?

Cancer is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases in which cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control. Although there are many kinds of cancer, they all start because abnormal cells grow out of control. Untreated cancers can cause serious illness and even death.

Normal cells in the body

The body is made up of hundreds of millions of living cells. Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a person’s life, normal cells divide faster to allow the person to grow. After the person becomes an adult, most cells divide only to replace worn-out or dying cells or to repair injuries.

How cancer starts

Cancer starts when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.

Cancer cell growth is different from normal cell growth. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells. Cancer cells can also invade (grow into) other tissues, something that normal cells cannot do. Growing out of control and invading other tissues are what makes a cell a cancer cell.

Cells become cancer cells because of damage to DNA. DNA is in every cell and directs all its actions. In a normal cell, when DNA gets damaged the cell either repairs the damage or the cell dies. In cancer cells, the damaged DNA is not repaired, but the cell doesn’t die like it should. Instead, this cell goes on making new cells that the body does not need. These new cells will all have the same damaged DNA as the first cell does.

People can inherit damaged DNA, but most DNA damage is caused by mistakes that happen while the normal cell is reproducing or by something in our environment. Sometimes the cause of the DNA damage is something obvious, like cigarette smoking. But often no clear cause is found.

In most cases the cancer cells form a tumor. Some cancers, like leukemia, rarely form tumors. Instead, these cancer cells involve the blood and blood-forming organs and circulate through other tissues where they grow.

How cancer spreads

Cancer cells often travel to other parts of the body, where they begin to grow and form new tumors that replace normal tissue. This process is called metastasis. It happens when the cancer cells get into the bloodstream or lymph vessels of our body.

How cancers differ

No matter where a cancer may spread, it is always named for the place where it started. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the liver is still called breast cancer, not liver cancer. Likewise, prostate cancer that has spread to the bone is metastatic prostate cancer, not bone cancer.

Different types of cancer can behave very differently. For example, lung cancer and breast cancer are very different diseases. They grow at different rates and respond to different treatments. That is why people with cancer need treatment that is aimed at their particular kind of cancer.

Tumors that are not cancer

Not all tumors are cancerous. Tumors that aren’t cancer are called benign. Benign tumors can cause problems – they can grow very large and press on healthy organs and tissues. But they cannot grow into (invade) other tissues. Because they can’t invade, they also can’t spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). These tumors are almost never life threatening.

How common is cancer?

Half of all men and one-third of all women in the US will develop cancer during their lifetimes.

Today, millions of people are living with cancer or have had cancer. The risk of developing most types of cancer can be reduced by changes in a person’s lifestyle, for example, by quitting smoking, limiting time in the sun, being physically active, and eating a better diet. The sooner a cancer is found and treated, the better the chances are for living for many years.

The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service. www.cancer.org

The American Institute for Cancer Research is the cancer charity that fosters research on diet and cancer prevention, interprets the evidence, and educates the public about the results. www.aicr.org

American Society for Radiation Oncology ASTRO’s mission is to advance the practice of radiation oncology by promoting excellence in patient care, providing opportunities for educational and professional development, promoting research and disseminating research results and representing radiation oncology in a rapidly evolving healthcare environment. www.astro.org www.rtanswers.org

Association of Cancer Online Resources ACOR is a collection of online communities designed to provide timely and accurate information in a supportive environment. www.acor.org

Bloch Cancer Hot Line consists of a group of individuals who have had cancer who are available to talk with newly diagnosed cancer patients, promptly upon diagnosis. www.blochcancer.org

CanCare is made up of cancer survivors of more than 50 different types of cancer volunteer for CanCare to provide emotional support to those currently facing a battle with cancer. A patient is matched with a CanCare volunteer for one-on-one emotional support based on a variety of criteria including cancer site, treatments, age and gender. www.cancare.org

Cancer Hope Network provides one-on-one support to people undergoing treatment for cancer, and to their families. This support is provided by training individuals who have recovered from cancer, and matching them with cancer patients currently undergoing a similar experience. www.cancerhopenetwork.org

Cancer Research Institute CRI is dedicated exclusively to the support and coordination of laboratory and clinical efforts that will lead to the immunological treatment, control, and prevention cancer. www.cancerresearch.org

Cancer Support Community provide professional programs of emotional support, education and hope for people affected by cancer at no charge so that no one faces cancer alone. www.cancersupportcommunity.org

Cancer Survival Toolbox is a free, self-learning audio program that has been developed by leading cancer organizations to help people develop important skills to better meet and understand the challenges of their illness.
www.cancersurvivaltoolbox.org

Cancer.Net, formerly People Living With Cancer (PLWC), brings the expertise and resources of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the voice of the world’s cancer physicians, to people living with cancer and those who care for and care about them. All the information and content on Cancer.Net was developed and approved by the cancer doctors who are members of ASCO. www.cancer.net

CancerCare provides free, professional support services to anyone affected by cancer: people with cancer, caregivers, children, loved ones, and the bereaved. CancerCare programs—including counseling and support groups, education, financial assistance and practical help—are provided by professional oncology social workers and are completely free of charge. www.cancercare.org

Caring Connections, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), is a national consumer and community engagement initiative to improve care at the end of life.
Click here for more information from Copingwww.caringinfo.org

The Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life and survival of cancer patients by increasing participation in cancer clinical trials.  www.CancerTrialsHelp.org

Coping® with Cancer magazine is written by and for the cancer community. A wide variety of professionals share their knowledge and experience in easy-to-read, relevant articles, and patients, caregivers, and survivors share their strategies for coping. www.copingmag.com/cwc

Imerman Angels connects a person fighting cancer with someone who has beaten that same type of cancer, completely free of charge. This one-on-one, mentor-type relationship is provided to anyone needing support during his or her battle with cancer, anywhere across the country and worldwide. ImermanAngels.org

Journey Forward‘s computer-based tool enables anyone diagnosed with any type of cancer to have their medical history, cancer treatment summary and a post-treatment survivorship care plan captured in one place.
www.journeyforward.org/professionals/survivorship-care-plan-builder.htm

Kids Konnected provides friendship, understanding, education, and support for the children who have a parent with cancer, or have lost a parent to cancer. www.kidskonnected.org

The Lance Armstrong Foundation unites people to fight cancer and pursue an agenda focused on prevention, access to screening and care, improvement of the quality of life for cancer survivors, and investment in research. www.livestrong.org

Life Beyond Cancer is a life coaching program for people who are ready to move forward and start a new chapter in their lives.  This program is offered to individuals and groups.  All life coaching sessions are conducted via telephone.  If you are ready to live life beyond cancer, set up a free intro life coaching call today. http://www.readytochangelifecoaching.com/Life_Beyond_Cancer.html

National Cancer Survivors Day is held annually in hundreds of communities throughout the world on the first Sunday in June. It is a symbolic event to demonstrate that life after a cancer diagnosis can be a reality.
www.ncsd.org

The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship advocates for quality cancer care for all Americans. NCCS believes in evidence-based advocacy for systemic changes at the federal level in how the nation researches, regulates, finances, and delivers quality cancer care.  www.canceradvocacy.org

National Comprehensive Cancer Network improves the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of oncology practice so patients can live better lives. www.nccn.org

National Lymphedema Network is an international non-profit organization providing education and guidance to lymphedema patients, health care professionals and the general public by disseminating information on the prevention and management of primary and secondary lymphedema. www.lymphnet.org

OncoLink was founded to help cancer patients, families, health care professionals and the general public get accurate cancer-related information at no charge. www.oncolink.upenn.edu

The Ulman Cancer Fund For Young Adults provides support programs, education and resources, free of charge, to benefit young adults, their families and friends, who are affected by cancer, and to promote awareness and prevention of cancer. Click here for more information from Copingwww.ulmanfund.org

Vital Options International is an international organization working with the patient advocacy and professional oncology community throughout the United States and Europe. Its programs enable patients and their loved ones to interact directly with leading worldwide oncology opinion leaders regarding the latest advances in cancer treatment, research, advocacy, and public policy issues www.vitaloptions.org