Cancer Survivorship: The Journey to Complete Freedom

“You are cancer-free.”

Few words have as much power to send chills down your spine and a smile across your face as these. After months, years, or even decades of battling back and forth with a disease that threatens your very existence this news offers proof that you have, indeed, triumphed! Sometimes, raucous celebrations ensue with friends and family (in my case, there was also a water fight, with super soakers and water-filled syringes, in the halls with some of my incredible nurses) as everyone’s energy combines and crescendos until it reaches an almost dreamlike peak. Other times, it is more befitting to sit in silence, stunned that it is over; you realize that somehow your body has been tensed since you received your diagnosis, and you revel in relaxation.

However it happens, chances are you missed hearing the doctor tell you about check-ups, potential long-term effects, and everything else that goes into being a cancer survivor. All aspects of assisting people who are in remission fall under the umbrella of “survivorship,” but that does not give any indication about how such programming helps you, well, survive.

Childhood cancer survival rates in the United States have increased from less than 20% in the 1960s to almost 80% in 2010.

Science has improved by incredible leaps so that more people afflicted with cancer before adulthood actually get the chance to live a long life. The major issue we now face is not whether most children will live through cancer, but how well they will live once they do; survivorship intends to answer that question. With the recent uptick in childhood cancer survivors, there has been a distinct shift in focus by research institutions to study the long-term effects of cancer during periods of massive human development.

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City of Hope, the same hospital that cured the founder of Cancer for College and many of our recipients, designed one such program to care for and evaluate young cancer survivors over a long period of time in order to better understand and mitigate any complications that might arise. Their survivorship program utilizes the expertise of a physician, nurse practitioner, dietitian, and psychologist to provide the most holistic and practical help possible.

Cancer for College is another organization that takes survivorship seriously, picking up where hospitals stop. A vast majority of our most meaningful life experiences and aspirations occur outside the walls of a research facility, and college is a time when so many of those are born and begin to come into focus. College students face the pressure to make a difference, choose the right major, make friends, and impress parents that adding potential medical issues and the unique mentality of being a cancer survivor can easily become overwhelming. This is where Cancer for College, and other organizations like Cuck Fancer and Dear Jack Foundation, are able to provide some much needed relief and resources.

Being a part of the Cancer for College family opens many doors to help cancer survivors become healthy and thriving. Receiving a scholarship is a crucial beginning that removes some of the burden of paying for college, thus making space for creativity and freedom to figure out who they are and how they are to accomplish their dreams. Along with this comes our desire for our recipients, and all childhood cancer survivors, to never feel like they are alone. That is why we love to encourage our recipients to get together with each other, past recipients, and mentors who understand what it is like to actually live daily as a cancer survivor.

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Past, current, and brand new scholarship recipients join Craig and Will for a photo in 2012.

If you have a college-bound cancer survivor in your life, or are one yourself, please apply for our scholarship. Head to www.cancerforcollege.org/application.html for more details and to begin the application. The deadline is January 31 so you have no time to lose! We would love to help you along your journey of survivorship.

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