When I was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a co-worker who had previously battled breast cancer took me out to lunch and welcomed me to "The Club." Now, this was not a club that I had to pay fees to join. I didn't have to know the right people. I didn't even have to play golf or tennis. Ours was an elite club, but not a club that anyone aspires to join. In fact, most of us would be thrilled to avoid this club all our lives. This special club was "The Cancer Club."

Clubhouse SignI used to think that the type of cancer we had separated us from each other, but I feel differently now. I agree that we may undergo different treatments if we are diagnosed with colon cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer or Hodgkin's. We may have different outlooks on our life expectancy. We may undergo surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or some combination of these, but we all share commonalities that bind us together for life. We are brothers and sisters joined, not by genetics, but by life experiences.

We all remember what it felt like when we were told that we had a cancerous mass growing inside our body. We know what it's like to feel fear that is so palpable you can taste it. We empathize with the rigors associated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. We understand how devastating this disease can be, not only for us, but also for our family and friends. And for those of us who have been fortunate enough to kill the beast, we know what it's like to be a survivor, complete with all the ensuing positives and negatives.

Yes, we are part of an elite club. How else do you explain how complete strangers can become your bosom buddies within minutes once they understand that you have shared the same struggle they have? Or how any one of us can tear up at the drop of a hat when we hear someone else share his or her recent cancer diagnosis? Or how hearing of someone having their cancer metastasize to another part of his or her body, or having a recurrence, can rock us to the core?

It's because we've been there. We know what it's like. We understand.

Because of this connection, other cancer patients and survivors can be an extremely valuable asset during your fight. Support groups, coffee, e-mails and phone calls can help you determine if something you are going through physically, mentally or emotionally is on target with what others have gone through. Seek out these people and accept that you may need their reassurance for years to come, for there is not some magical point in your life when the word survivor will cease to be a part of your vocabulary. Whether you had chemotherapy this morning or have been in complete remission for 25 years, there is no expiration date on survivorship. Embrace it every single day of your life.

Share Your Thoughts

Did someone invite you to join "The Club" after your cancer diagnosis? What support did you find there? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Sue Northey is a lifelong Milwaukeean who ventured a whopping 50 miles away to attend the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees. She loves her home state of Wisconsin, but also loves traveling and learning about different cultures. Sue has spent over 25 years in the field of marketing, working on the client, agency and academic sides of branding and communications. Recently, she leveraged all her knowledge to create Branding Breakthroughs, LLC, a marketing consulting company. Sue was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1999 and underwent both chemotherapy and radiation. Nine years later, she underwent a pericardiectomy to remove the lining of her heart due to damage caused during treatment. If you haven't figured this out yet, Sue embraces every aspect of life ... even more so since having cancer.

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Kimberly Yoghourtjian
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Hi Sue,
Thank you for your insightful article. Even though I was not diagnosed with cancer, my husband was. As his wife, I walked the cancer path along with him, and I am so grateful to the people who have encouraged us along the way. Cancer is a disease that touches the lives of the people closely associated with the cancer patient in a profound way. When I was encouraged, we were both encouraged and that helped my husband to recover. As his caregiver, our cancer support club was a vital link to people who understood the journey we have been on.

Beth Dowhen
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Sue, you are so right! After my diagnosis, I found support through the American Cancer Society website. The Head & Neck group has become a family. We rejoice when one of us finishes treatment or hears the words "no evidence of disease". We wait and pray for test results with each other. We cry when we learn of recurrances and deaths. It is so helpful to know there are people who understand the issues you are facing. From a fellow club member, thank you for stating this so beautifully.