November 12, 1997. That is the day I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. That is also the day I became a cancer survivor. I was young (26) and invincible when my world was turned upside down with a diagnosis of stage 3 rectal cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy followed. I finished treatment and began my life after cancer.
Life after cancer was a roller coaster ride filled with a new normal, divorce, dating stories, fertility discussions, family, friends, a supportive work environment, and most of all an appreciation of waking up each day incredibly thankful to be alive.
At the time I was diagnosed, I was happily working at Johns Hopkins University in the Office of Faculty, Staff, and Retiree Programs. I navigated on my own the maze of working while going through treatment and trying to figure out Family Medical Leave and short term disability. A program like Work Stride: Managing Cancer at Work would have been a lifesaver. To have an oncology nurse navigator and a resource-rich website to help guide me on my journey, especially while working, would have made such a significant impact.
I come from a family of cancer survivors, my mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor and my dad was a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor and a prostate cancer survivor. I was a caregiver to both of my parents while they were on their cancer journey. Working while being a caregiver can be extremely challenging but the Work Stride website and nurse navigators can help ease the burden.
As a cancer survivor, I look forward to each “cancerversary” with excitement. And, as fate would have it, the date November 12 now has new meaning to me; it is my son’s birthday. I whole-heartedly believe that being a mom, a nurse, and a cancer survivor are three of my greatest contributions to society thus far.
So, for the millions of cancer survivors out there, live each day to the fullest, don’t sweat the small stuff, and make the most of every moment.
Eden Stotsky-Himelfarb, B.S.N., R.N., ONN-CG
Workplace Oncology Nurse Navigator
Johns Hopkins Work Stride: Managing Cancer at Work
Here is a list of ways you can help a cancer survivor in your life. In short, as writer and blogger Racelle Rosett explains, treat your cancer survivor loved ones like you would like to be treated:
Rosett, Racelle (2016). How to treat a cancer survivor? Retrieved from: http://groknation.com/women/how-to-treat-a-cancer-survivor/