You Are a Cancer Survivor…Now What?

You Are a Cancer Survivor…Now What?

National Cancer Survivors Day - June 5, 2022
“You are BRAVER than you believe,
STRONGER than you seem, SMARTER than
you think, and twice as BEAUTIFUL than you
ever imagined”
You Made It!

It’s incredible to think that we’ve lived through an aggressive mutating virus that started a global pandemic in the past few years, wars exposing old wounds between countries, obscure weather conditions due to climate change, and gas price sticker shock mocking us every time we fill up. But, guess what you made through…some while taking on the challenging and stressful journey of pediatric cancer, you SURVIVED! Today, Here to Serve celebrates those who fought the good fight and survived their battle with cancer, especially the families we served. Harper, in the photo to the left, is a pediatric cancer survivor! At ten months old, she battled Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) M7 Mutation. She is a cancer survivor. Now she is living life and enjoying the three brothers who have since joined her growing family! We celebrate her and the many children who have survived cancer and live remarkable lives.

Mom kissing daughter on cheekTake Your Time

Survivorship doesn’t just mean you magical snap back into your family’s pre-cancer diagnosis routine and life. There are significant aftermath emotions, often long-term side effects from treatment, and constant monitoring for years to ensure NED (no evidence of disease). It’s understandable that though you want to be grateful that you and your child have pulled through, you still can’t be wholly excited and ready to celebrate life after cancer. There are times when “scanxiety” takes hold. Taking the time to heal and getting organized after cancer can make all the difference in your transition. You may not have the time to ponder the future while trying to survive. Check out some of these essentials that you’ll want to list out and think about a current and updated plan for:

  • Follow-up Cancer Care
  • Health Insurance Coverage after completing treatment
  • Life Insurance Coverage
  • Graphic of head with name tags of worrisome feelings For parents and young adults searching for a job that will suit any new physical limitations.
  • Sorting out pending medical bills. Creating a simple list or spreadsheet can make all the difference when you’re trying to organize what payments still need to be closed out from diagnosis to end-term treatment. It may be helpful to keep these separate from after-cancer care bills.
  • Understanding your family’s current mental health by speaking with a therapist. You might have elements of post-traumatic stress that could hinder your survivorship. Therapy is an integral part of healing from the ordeal of cancer.
  • Young boy playing soccer goalieUnderstanding and coping with a changed physical body. Cancer survivors will likely be more aware of body shape changes, aches, and pains. It’s important to notice them and remind them that these are all physical alterations, but the most complex internal fight they survived was the best gift their body could give them. Surviving cancer is a tremendous accomplishment, and many who battle the disease are not so lucky.
  • Find a support group specifically created for children and/or young survivors. Many cancer survivors find support groups to be very beneficial. Having other pediatric cancer survivors to talk to before getting back to the everyday routines of school, rekindling old friendships, or getting back to activities they once loved will make transitioning forward easier.
  • Graphic of a checklistEducate yourself on the latent side effects that might come over time from aggressive chemotherapy treatments, and know what signs to look for. Living a healthy lifestyle can counteract possible long-term side effects.
Our Cancer Survivor Story: Meet Seth!

During a seemingly ordinary summer break in 2017, filled with plans for sunny beach days, bike ride adventures, splashing in the pool, and making memories at summer camp, Seth’s family noticed something a little odd after he accidentally stepped on a Lego. Seth quickly developed a high fever and a decline in his physical energy while recovering from the sprain caused by the pesky toy piece. His parents intuitively decided to take him for further blood tests, which initially came out normal. After a few weeks of summer fun, Seth came down with yet another intense fever, but this one was different. Seth was not eating, his body was starting to look very weak, he was pale, and his usually playful eyes were dark and sunken.Image of young cancer patient smiling

Another emergency trip to the doctor and more blood tests revealed that 6-year-old Seth had been diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia called Philadelphia Chromosome Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia ( Ph+ ALL).   Seth was put into the High-Risk category, which meant more aggressive chemotherapy. At the time of diagnosis, Seth’s doctors informed his family that the success rate was not as high, and in the worst-case scenario, it may require a bone-marrow transplant. By December 2020,  after a long journey of traditional therapies and experimental phase medications, Seth was officially cancer-free! However, like every cancer survivor, he suffered from long-term side effects. In March 2021, Seth was hospitalized due to his battle with large kidney stones that developed because of certain medications during his cancer treatment. Seth has been concurring post-cancer issues like a champ, a true fighter!

Young boy smilingHe is a jubilant, adventurous, and intelligent cancer survivor who is ready and hopeful to live his life to the fullest. The relentless efforts of a loving family and support groups played a significant role in the well-being of him and his family. It truly takes a village to pull through pediatric cancer, and it can make a massive impact on the outcome of survivorship. Seth recently celebrated his 11th Birthday this past April. Please join us in wishing him a healthy and happy new year ahead!

If you would like to learn more about Seth and follow his story of overcoming a rare cancer diagnosis, please check out his group Facebook page!

Here to Serve

Many children and young adults that HereTo Serve support survive their cancer diagnosis. You can also support our efforts to help other children like Harper and Seth battle pediatric cancers on Amazon Smile. We are on the cancer journey with them to ease the burden of daily life as they concentrate their energy on treatment and recovery. We understand that not every cancer battle will end in survival, but our hope is for survival to live, grow and celebrate life. If you know a family with a child recently diagnosed with cancer, Here to Serve can make a huge difference. Many families have said they don’t know how they could have made it through without the support of Here to Serve and their program and ability to galvanize and organize support. Here to Serve provides support that hospitals and the healthcare system cannot. Contact Here To Serve by clicking on the Get Help button here or on our website. We wish all our current and future cancer families a very Happy Cancer Survivors Day filled with an abundance of hope, love, and a renewed joy in life! 

By Sameera Rangwala, M.S., M.P.H

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provides words of support to the cancer community.

All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.