Cancer Survivor's Day

Fourteen million cancer survivors live in the United States today and with the help of prevention, technological advances and the personal strength of those diagnosed, that number is continuing to rise higher than ever. In honor of Cancer Survivor’s Day, we revisited two of our MCA warriors and mesothelioma survivors and asked about their experience with cancer and what being a survivor personally means to each of them.

Rachel Shaneyfelt

Rachel Shaneyfelt was 43 years old and working towards a Master’s Degree in Nursing when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2011. She dreamed of becoming a family nurse practitioner and opening up a clinic in her small Alabama town. Her background in medicine and a strong faith helped her fight and beat her disease, or, as she fondly calls it, a “beautiful dance with the the maker.”

You survived a rare and potentially fatal disease. What does it mean to you to be a mesothelioma survivor?

“Do you ever survive mesothelioma? If you survive the disease, I don’t think you ever survive the fear of it coming back. As crazy as it sounds, I have a certain guilt associated with being a survivor; a two year, one month, and 15 day survivor. I tend to wonder, ‘why me? what’s my purpose?’ I have altered my life to seek for such an answer. I want to offer hope and health and healing. I feel that God truly showed up in my case. God is bigger than cancer.”

Rachel Shaneyfelt

How is your life different now that you are a cancer survivor compared to your life pre-mesothelioma?

“Life is quite different, but oh so much more beautiful now. there are far more wonderful moments that before. Not that they are different, just now I pay better attention. I say live like you are living, not dying. It is a blessing to see all your colleagues pass you by in the hall with a double take. Yeah, it’s me. I’m alive and, by God’s grace, I made it.”

Rachel graduated on time with her classmates and accepted a job as a family nurse practitioner at the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at University of Alabama Birmingham where she intends to spread the message of hope to her patients. Read Rachel's full story here.

Sean Gee

Sean Gee was a 20 year old, recent high school graduate when he was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of mesothelioma in his testicles. Now, a survivor of two decades, Sean attributes much of his survival to self-examinations he learned about in a high school sociology class and his positive attitude.

Sean Gee

Upon first being diagnosed with mesothelioma, did you believe you would be where you are today and able to say “I’m a cancer survivor”?

“After it was confirmed that I had mesothelioma and I found out how rare it was, never in a million years did I think I would be close to celebrating 20 years of being meso-free. I feel extremely lucky to be able to say I’m a mesothelioma cancer survivor. I am the only one in my immediate family that has had to deal with going through something like this and, honestly, I’m thankful for that. You need to stay positive, find the silver lining in every situation.”

How is your life different now that you are a cancer survivor compared to your life pre-mesothelioma?

“Prior to being diagnosed with mesothelioma, I was heavily involved in community activism and local political issues. I was so busy helping others that I didn’t really stop to enjoy the work I was doing. After my diagnosis, I started living my life in the moment. I learned that I needed to focus on what was going on at that time because I would never get it back.”

After receiving a clean bill of health, Sean thanked his high school sociology teacher, crediting her with saving his life. For about seven years after receiving a clean bill of health, Sean visited his sociology teacher’s class and gave presentations on his experience. Read Sean’s full story here.

If you’re one of the fourteen million cancer survivors in the US today, share your story with us in the comments below.