Survivors and the Holidays

When a patient learns their cancer is in remission after many months of treatments, surgeries, and side effects, a cancer survivor does not need a lesson in gratitude. Every new day and regular activities will bring on a new found appreciation and the small things will certainly not be dwelled on. So what do bigger occasions, like the holidays, mean to a cancer survivor?

Koryn, 49, is a breast cancer survivor from Virginia and a member of MyBCTeam, a social network for women facing breast cancer, keeps her outlook simple,

"Keep in mind that your family wants your presence more than presents. It's far more meaningful to them than having everything on their Christmas list."

Lauren Ward, a 36-year-old survivor of breast cancer since August 21, wife, and mother of a 7-year-old and two twin 5-year-olds, knows that this holiday season will be very special,

“This will be a special holiday season for our family. Every holiday season is special, but made even more by the events of 2012. Last year at this time, my husband was on a 12-week stint overseas - returning only for a week at Thanksgiving and a week at Christmas. I thought that was a hardship. How things have changed. Undergoing chemo, radiation, surgery, and recovery has given me a unique opportunity to recognize what's truly important-- my family, our happiness, and helping others.

Life altering experiences are just that- a new lens through which you see the world. And if you are lucky enough to have one of those experiences, using it is up to you.”

Ali Gilmore, survivor of stage IV colon cancer, says that she doesn’t want to waste one minute of the valuable time that she’s been given,

“There are so many reasons for being positive during the holiday season. Being a cancer survivor just magnifies that holiday spirit to the nth degree for me. I am more willing to speak up and enjoy the holidays the way that I want to versus "this is the way we've always done it". I'm far less likely to allow myself to get stressed about finding the perfect outfit to wear or gift for someone and I'm far more focused on the moment as it's happening and who I'm with rather than what's next . . . I haven't decided yet how or where I will spend Christmas and New Year's yet, but I can promise you that whatever I do it will be amazing, because I choose for it to be and that's how the holidays have changed for me.”

Ginger Johnson, founder and president of her company Happy Chemo!, was diagnosed with breast cancer on the scariest day of the year while 5 months pregnant—on Halloween! After making it through this scary ordeal, Ginger now has a new outlook on life,

“Cancer isn't a gift by any means, but the experience of overcoming adversity, of gaining a new perspective, is something that is priceless … I am grateful for the life experience that opened my eyes to what really matters in life and grateful that each holiday, and each day I live, I DO have the opportunity to choose to be happy.”

Everyone experiences a different cancer journey, but many survivors come out with a similar result, gratitude and a new perspective. If you’re a cancer survivor, share what the holidays mean to you now with others in our community!