What it Means to be a Cancer Survivor by Sammy Belitzky
When I was first diagnosed with cancer there was one day I was counting down for – the day I would end chemo. To me, that was the day when I would have no worries and life would go back to normal. Little did I know, my journey was only beginning and I was going to have to learn what my new ‘normal’ would be. I knew very well what it meant to be a cancer fighter. I woke up everyday and didn’t know what the day was going to hold. As a survivor I sometimes feel like I have a job to fufill.
One in every four kids get cancer, and I so happened to be the one out of the four. This is something that not everyone is able to say in their lifetime “ I beat cancer”. I feel pressure, I feel the need to pay everyone back. Everyone gave up their lives to me, but what can I do back for them? A cancer survivor never feels like a survivor. They feel like a fighter. It’s a fight each and every day. I always think of people who are in the army when I think of fighting cancer. The physical fight is over but the mental health fight never ends. Life continues to go on, but for the cancer survivor they almost wish they could go back in time. Everyone’s life continues to go on but when something so extravagant happens, you try to hold onto every little piece you can. When life was so out of the ordinary for a year, I was not ready to move on. Being a “ cancer fighter” was something I knew defined me. I lost my hair and gained weight, those are all things that my 13 year old self defined ME as. I soon began to say that ‘cancer’ was the one word that defined me. I felt like I lost everything and now this title was something I was going to lose too. I had no idea that it would always have a huge impact on me.
There are no words to describe a cancer survivor. You lose a connection to people close to you but you gain an even stronger one with others. You gain a new love for things. I’m not going to say that I am a complete life enthusiast and I wake up and am thankful everyday. I wake up and some days I think to myself “I can’t do it, what’s the point”. There are some days I wake up and want to be ‘normal’, but there are days where i’ll be in the hallway walking around school and it will hit me – I am strong, I am a fighter, I won. Then I lift my head up high, it is an accomplishment, It’s adjusting to a new life. It’s having days that you just want to curl up into a ball, but it’s also a sense of being a 15 year old girl and having people look at you in awe. Completing something and feeling proud that not many 15 year old’s nor people do in their lifetime. Cancer survivors hold onto that cancer fighter feeling forever. They’ll always remember the heartache sitting in the room hearing you have cancer. But they’ll also remember the day they finished chemo and were in shock that the day had finally come.
It sounds weird to some but a cancer survivor has way more fears than a fighter. A fighter is always on the go. They are still in the middle of the journey and are surrounded by the prayers and the loves. But the survivors don’t get that. Their life isn’t running at the speed of light anymore. It’s the time of thinking, reflecting and understanding. The prayers slow down but the fight really never ends. A survivor has a fear of relapsing. A fear that most people have is ‘getting cancer’ but it does not hit their mind each and everyday. Cancer survivors live with survivor guilt although they live with a purpose. With all my cancer survivor friends, it does not matter the race, the gender nor the religion. When we are together there’s a connection and an automatic friendship.
For a very long time I found it difficult to transition from the cancer fighter stage to becoming a survivor. I struggled with moving on and connecting to friends. Through Camp Ooch and hospital connections, I was able to find a balance where I could still be a proud cancer survivor, but at the same time a 15 year old ‘normal’ girl. The big question is. If I could go back in time and if there was a medication I could take to not get cancer would I? Yes obviously to not feel the pain. But that was a year of pain and a lifetime of proudness. Some days I would take the medication in a second. But other days I look around me and see how much cancer had added to my life and not taken away. I have met the most amazing people who I know will stay in my life forever, I have built the strongest family connection possible and most of allI I have a story and l I have a purpose.