Changing what it means to be a Cancer Survivor

In many Relay For Life countries around the world it is commonly a challenge to convince cancer survivors to identify themselves and participate in the survivor activities of Relay For Life. Seeing the "sea of purple-shirted people" walking the survivor lap at Relay For Life is one of my most treasured moments each year. When I was first diagnosed with cancer 24 years ago and subsequently got involved with the American Cancer Society, one of my main objectives was to do whatever I could to eliminate the stigma involved with a cancer diagnosis – to let people know that it is okay to talk about what they are going through and seek support from others who have been through the same or similar experiences. In the years since I began my involvement with ACS, it has been so rewarding to see all of those people who are no longer afraid to let others know that they have or had cancer.

Cancer survivorship, in my opinion, no longer carries the stigma it once did and I believe Relay For Life is the biggest reason that this is so. The celebration of cancer survivors through Relay For Life has been a huge influence and a huge motivating factor to cancer survivors. The unique and special celebration of survivorship that has evolved through Relay For Life is something that no other organization can claim or mimic. The HOPE that cancer survivors feel by seeing others who have been through the same thing is incredibly special! Connecting with other cancer survivors through Relay renews my hope every time I experience the survivor activities and survivor's lap.

The cancer journey that I have experienced is something I thank God for daily - had I not had cancer I wouldn't have had the experiences I've had, and wouldn't have been a part of all of the special relationships that have formed through cancer survivors participating in Relay. The ability to help others through this global phenomenon we call Relay For Life is something that I think all Relayers can resonate with. As this new year begins, my wish for 2015 is that every person who is afraid to let others know that they have been diagnosed with cancer will be given the opportunity to experience Relay For Life and find HOPE for themselves...that they will connect with others who will inspire them to give this fight everything that they have got and that they will have the chance to be honored by all of us who participate in Relay For Life!

Cherilyn Pollard
Cancer Survivor
American Cancer Society Volunteer