What It Feels Like To Be A Cancer Survivor

What does it feel like to live life as a cancer survivor? Am I focused on the fact that there was a time in my life, when cancer was lurking in my body? Do I live in fear of it coming back?

According to the 2017 statistics from the American Cancer Society, there are over 15 million people who are either cancer survivors or who are currently in active treatment. The number of newly diagnosed cases is expected to be approximately 1.6 million this year alone. These numbers indicate what you already know: there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been personally touched by this disease. Everyone knows someone who has received a diagnosis and sadly, someone who has fought cancer and lost. Fortunately, we all know many more people who are cancer survivors.

There are a lot of people who are living life as survivors.

When you get diagnosed with cancer, it takes your breath away. You don’t know what to do or where to turn. Once you get past the initial shock, you focus on your treatment options and on formulating a plan. If you’re lucky, you have a lot of options and you make the best decisions with the information provided. No matter what you’re dealing with, you move forward and you fight, one day at a time one step at a time.

I suppose it’s similar to anyone who has ever experienced a potentially life threatening situation: a heart attack patient worrying if another attack is coming, a stroke patient fearing future episodes, a dialysis patient concerned with upcoming options.

Like with most things, you do the best you can with the hand you’ve been dealt.

Living as a cancer survivor can be hard.

Living as a cancer survivor can be hard.

Most of the time, I live in a place of deep gratitude. I’m so busy feeling grateful for all of the blessings in my life, I don’t have time to think about what might or might not happen in the future. I realize not everyone who gets diagnosed with cancer gets to be call a survivor and I don’t take this lightly.

I’ve seen first hand that life is uncertain and unpredictable. A person who has gone through a challenging experience understands anything can happen to anyone at anytime.

Just turn on the news tonight, and listen to all of the random unforeseen events that transpired during the day. There truly aren’t any guarantees, for any of us.

Being a cancer survivor means you understand that shit can happen.

Out of the blue.

It means you’ve lost the illusion that you and your family are safe from bad things happening. A cancer survivor knows that no one is exempt from hard times. I talk a lot about this on my podcast, Thrive: The Podcast with Garth and Dara. 

But, because of what I’ve gone through and the clear understanding I have of the fragility of life, I don’t take my life for granted.

I’ve been told to consider myself cured and I know my chances of remaining cancer free are extremely high. I also recognize nothing is a guarantee.

Not for me. Not for you. Not for anyone.

How do I live my life knowing all of this?

Living each day with intention and purpose has become important to me. I try not to focus on the future or the past, but rather the right here right now. I’m not what happened to me. That’s in the past. I’m not what might happen. That’s in the future.

Living life as a cancer survivor has made me more aware of how I want to spend my time and who I want to spend that time with.

I truly view each day as a gift and I look for the beauty that’s all around me. I didn’t even understand what living with gratitude meant before I went through breast cancer. Because of my experience, my days are richer and fuller.

If you’ve been through a hard time and you’re struggling with how to make peace with it, I hope this helps. The best advice I can give you is to accept what happened, enjoy the moment you’re in and let the rest go. I’m not trying to simplify what you’re facing, but you have a choice. You can worry about what you can’t control, what might or might not happen, or you can enjoy your life.

Today. Right now. In this moment.

Worry is a wasted emotion and fear can be debilitating. Don’t give these emotions power or let them steal your joy. Instead, you have to actively decide you’re going to make the most of each beautiful day, and then do it!

Find meaning each day,



  1. Holly on October 24, 2016 at 10:21 am

    What a most beautiful story. It was the first thing I read this morning. So true are your words to live by. Thank you for sharing. Bless you.

    • Dara Kurtz on October 24, 2016 at 6:49 pm

      I’m so glad you liked it! Sending my much love!

  2. Christine on October 24, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you Dara! You have said what I have been trying to put into words, I am still going through treatment, I start my radiotherapy next week, I had breast surgery Sept 1, meanwhile I am beginning the process on enrolling in an online course, Diplona of Youth Work, which will take up to two years to complete! Previously I had thought I was too old to retrain and had left teaching three years ago. So yes! None of us gets out of this life alive so make it count!!!

    • Dara Kurtz on October 24, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      Thank you Christine. I’m so happy to hear you’re dealing with it and focusing on living your life at the same time. I know it can be hard, but just take one day at a time. You’re doing great!

  3. Patricia on October 24, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Hi Dara,

    Very well said. I can relate, as I also was diagnosed almost 2 years.

    Blessings for a long healthy life.

    • Dara Kurtz on October 24, 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Thank you Patricia, same to you! Big hugs!

  4. Mike on October 24, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    I am a 5 year pancreatic cancer survivor so I understand about living everyday enjoying
    to the fullest. When someone asks how I am doing I respond by saying I have no complains, things could be worse and have been so no complains.

    • Dara Kurtz on October 24, 2016 at 6:51 pm

      Good for you Mike, I’m so happy for you! Much love…

  5. Cindy Roughgarden on October 27, 2016 at 11:14 am

    This was great! Dx LAST October and coming to end of my surgeries and tx, I needed this.. it is also my birth month.. yay!!. Perfect gift to me to read this. Thanks

    • Dara Kurtz on October 29, 2016 at 10:43 am

      I’m so glad you liked this. Sending you much love!

  6. Kathi on February 20, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I enjoyed listening to you today. It’s good that you can open doors for communication about our battles with ca. It connects us and I find that somehow encouraging. I have been treading my course like a climber taking it all in the ugly, the changes and the glorious moments that God gives where we see beauty and hope inspite of pain and new limitations. You are right when you said accept or make peace with where you are. Yet keep hope and faith for our Heavenly Father has good plans for us. I trust and that keeps me going though I am looking through a fog and do not no what the next day will bring. Seize The Day!

    • Dara Kurtz on February 23, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      Beautifully said… keep on doing what you’re doing, one day at a time. Much love to you!

    • Dara Kurtz on March 12, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      Thank you for sharing your perspective. Seize the Day, you’re right! Much love to you!

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