I recently had the opportunity to connect with a friend from high school who like me, is a cancer survivor. We met for a bite to eat and to talk about where life had taken us over the past eight years. When we got around to chatting about the "C" word we both agreed that the toughest part of surviving cancer was being a survivor.
I shared with him that even talking with him about my past disease made me feel as though I was poking the devil and feared that sharing my story was somehow throwing off a smoke signal to the cancer gods that perhaps they should stop by my house again. I also shared with him how after I survived for the next 13 months of my life I felt invincible and worse yet -- worthless. How to this day I fear that cancer has left me a shell of a partially empathetic man. That somehow when that needle pierced my skin and sunk deep into my vein, my sympathy for others may have died along with my cancer. We both agreed that the toughest part of cancer was being a survivor.
I have written before about what my oncologist calls "survivorship." I suppose if we were to look it up Webster would tell us "the act of moving on with life -- cancer free." (I have no idea what Webster says about the subject, nor am I going to look it up. I am qualified to define it for you.) Survivorship is the ability to walk through life with the knowledge that you survived something that you probably should not have. Something that millions of others have not. It is the ability to wake up in the morning and not allow your mind to convince you that all that was special within you died alongside your illness. It is the knowledge that for some reason you have been given a chance to connect with a whole new segment of civilization and now carry an arsenal of experience and stories. Quite simply survivorship is the ability to not give up after giving your all. Oh yeah, it is definitely a verb.
I find it hard to believe that 13 years ago I was walking this planet with a molotov cocktail of chemo and cancer. I had a strong belief that cancer was a very strange gift that would eventually allow me to relate with thousands of people that I would have never been able to, had it not been for the odd looking masses that filled my chest.
I knew back then that cancer was a new relationship that was forming and I had a few simple choices to make. Live and accept the lessons my disease was going to teach me or, die and miss out on the lessons that I had an opportunity to learn.
Writing a blog about survivorship still scares me. Bragging that I survived and attempting to influence you the reader into not giving up after giving your all - scares me. Here is one of the things I have learned...I deserve to tell you my story, and if done correctly, it may encourage you.
I'm not poking the cancer gods by sharing my story I'm simply thanking them for the lessons I learned while sitting under that bag of chemicals and radioactive camera. All I'm doing is saying, "I have given my all, but I'm not giving up." I encourage you to do the same with whatever battle you are facing. Battles bring two chances, one for victory, one for defeat. The opposing side may have more muscle, intimidation tactics, and seemingly the ability to take your hope -- but I encourage you to accept the challenge and push forward. Give it your all. Rest when you need to. Ask for help when you need it. And when the end of the battle has come -- share your story. Give your all and please, don't ever give up. Someone needs to hear your story.
David Pride is a professional youth speaker, owner of Social Impressions a social media agency that specializes in helping businesses prepare to take part in social media, and can be found on Twitter @DavidaPride.