February 2nd, 2018
| Survivor: Acute Myeloid Leukemia
In January 2005, my great-aunt died after a very short battle with pancreatic cancer. I remember her as someone who was always so loving and happy, especially when our family would get together. She was also the glue that kept my mother’s side of the family together and when she died, I knew that her absence would impact me greatly. I had heard of cancer before but never had it take someone I loved from me. Over the last decade, cancer has struck my family several times: My great-grandmother, grandmother, and grandfather. Luckily, they achieved remission fairly soon and are all still here today.
Fast forward to 2018…I am in my second year of remission after being diagnosed at 26 years old with acute myeloid leukemia in 2015. I didn’t expect to have to stare cancer so closely in the face, especially not at such an early age. But I did. My family and friends couldn’t believe it either. How could a healthy, young woman who kept up with all her medical appointments, didn’t do any drugs, exercised consistently, and was on top of all the healthy eating trends get cancer out of nowhere?
No one could explain it.
On this World Cancer Day, I want anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer personally to recognize how important it is to support those that have been. Support can take place in many forms but before I ask you to donate to cancer researchers or to the many gofundme pages out there supporting a cancer fighter, let me make it simpler for you. Just talk about it. I can’t tell you how many people squirm the very moment I mention the word cancer. I'm sorry the word cancer makes many people uncomfortable. The fact that 14.1 million people in the world were diagnosed with cancer in 2012 with that number expected to increase to 24 million by 2035 makes me uncomfortable. It makes me sad, confused, and completely angry.
So let’s talk about cancer. Let’s talk about how scary it is for people diagnosed with cancer to have to face their mortality while fighting an unpredictable disease. Let’s talk about the numerous families and friends that are just as affected. Let’s talk about the fact that cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and responsible for the lives of 8.8 million people in 2015. Let’s talk about how cancer is not a death sentence for many people as there are 15.5 million cancer survivors living in the United States alone. Let’s talk about how 1/3 of cancers are preventable. Let’s talk about how there will be many people who just like me, will get cancer JUST BECAUSE.
Will just talking about it be enough? No, it definitely won’t. But if you are lucky enough to not have been affected by cancer in any way, talking about how cancer affects other people is a good way to start showing support to the cancer community. Be an active member in the fight against cancer by becoming aware of what cancer is, the different types of cancers and treatments, the many ways it affects millions of families worldwide, and how you can help! Posting a picture of your chosen cancer ribbon on Instagram is not enough.
You need to talk about cancer. And not just today. Talk about it in your prayers. Talk about it in your goals and hopes for the near future. Talk about it when discussing insurance policies and the current political climate. Talk about it when you want to donate to a good cause. Talk about it when considering where you can volunteer opportunities. Talk about it when you’re thinking about creating change. Take the first step by simply talking about it.
World Cancer Day is not just today. It is everyday.
What else do you want those unaffected by cancer to know about it? Share in the comments below.
Photo courtesy of author.
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