National Cancer Survivors Day® & Why I’m Just Not that Into It

In case you didn’t know or remember, the first Sunday in June is officially designated as National Cancer Survivors Day®, so I’m sharing some thoughts about it again this year. For various reasons, I’m just not that into it and I’ll try to explain why in this post. On their official website it says the following: 

National Cancer Survivors Day® is an annual, treasured Celebration of Life that is held in hundreds of communities nationwide, and around the world, on the first Sunday in June. It is a CELEBRATION for those who have survived, an INSPIRATION for those recently diagnosed, a gathering of SUPPORT for families, and an OUTREACH to the community. On National Cancer Survivors Day®, thousands gather across the globe to honor cancer survivors and to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be fruitful, rewarding, and even inspiring.

When I visited the website this year, I couldn’t help but notice there had been a small change made to the mission (it’s not stated that the above is the mission, I’m just referring to it as that here). And a treasured celebration of life? That’s a bit of an over-statement don’t you think? Treasured by whom?

As I shared in my post last year on this topic, the words on their website at that time said this:

“…It (life) may not be the same as before cancer, but it can be beautiful, rewarding and sometimes even better than before…”

Notice the changes? See the highlighted (my doing) in the last sentence in this year’s mission statement above.

Without a doubt, the revised highlighted (again by me) wording is much better, but still, I am just not that into this celebratory day’s designation.

Why not? 

Last year I wrote about why I can’t fully get behind this day, so again, you can read that post here if you want to. And of course, just because I am not that into it (NCSD), this doesn’t mean others can’t be. If fact, if you do embrace this particular celebration, I’d love to hear from you.

I do commend the support part and the outreach part, so I guess you could say this means I am half-way in. Sort of. I searched the website for some specifics about dollars (there’s lots of merchandise to buy) and what is done with those dollars, but didn’t find a clear explanation.

The whole idea of designating such a day feels too celebratory for my liking. And perhaps even a little patronizing too.


To me it sort of feels like getting a pat on the head for something I did not earn. I did as I was told. I survived and continue to survive not so much because of anything I did or do, but rather because I’ve followed a recommended course of action and because so far I’m lucky to still be NED (no evidence of disease).

Of course, this does not mean I am not grateful to be around, to be surviving. I am indeed grateful for this and many other things.

And by the way, why does it seem that when we choose not to conform to “accepted how to do cancer (including survivorship) etiquette”, it is often perceived that we are ungrateful?

Mostly, this day is troubling to me simply because it feels too celebratory for my liking. Just a little over a week ago yet another wonderful friend learned she has liver, brain, lung and bone mets.

What about her?

I bet she’s not feeling like celebrating right about now.

What about all those who have died?

Where’s their day?

I think there’s danger in making it sound as if we have successfully triumphed over cancer because we have not.

I have no idea how much money is donated for the patient support and community outreach part of what NCSD stand for. Kudos to whomever for any and all of that.

But as far as me getting behind National Cancer Survivors Day® and feeling all warm and fuzzy about it…

Not gonna happen.

I am just not that into it. 

What about you?

How do you feel about National Cancer Survivors Day®?

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34 thoughts to “National Cancer Survivors Day® & Why I’m Just Not that Into It”

  1. Hi Nancy,

    I’ve never been into it; it just seems so empty and meaningless. And, as you say, patronizing. Why do survivors get celebrated and those with metastatic cancer do not? I don’t really feel like partying it up on a designated day. Like you, I’m so grateful to have survived. Survival has been something I never take for granted, and I know how lucky I am thus far.

    However, I suffer a lot emotionally and physically from having gone through cancer and its treatments. Survivorship is a double-edged sword. And sometimes I don’t know which edge I’m on.

    Excellent post, Nancy!

    1. Beth, I remember that you’re not that into this day either. The event doesn’t exclude those who are metastatic, they are surviving as well, but the whole idea of the day, just feels too celebratory and sort of patronizing to me. Thanks for sharing your feelings.

  2. Nancy — I didn’t even know this day existed. I never liked the word “survivor” so I never bothered to look for the identity.

    Personally I don’t like the celebratory theme behind this. I never thought of “surviving” cancer as a triumph I’ve earned but rather an opportunity that my body was lucky enough to handle. I had absolutely no control over any of it. No one does. And you’re right when you say people perceive our reactions as being ungrateful. Like you, I am grateful I survived but I never liked the glorification for something I didn’t do.

    For me, cancer isn’t over, and it never will be – even without being stage 4. I also can’t celebrate when I know many are dying from this illness (guilt or not, it doesn’t feel right to me either).

    1. Rebecca, Well, I guess now you know! I don’t think cancer is really over for anyone once diagnosed, no matter what the stage. Thank you for sharing how you feel about this event.

  3. Hi Nancy 🙂
    To be truthful I do attend our local gathering…BUT… I use it as an opportunity to catch up with my friends .. & to network as an advocate.
    I go with the intention of seeing those I know personally (as I’m not a social animal) but I cringe when the celebratory ceremony begins and think only of those who are unable to “be present”.
    I guess it’s my own way of thumbing my nose at celebratory aspect.

    1. Marcia, It sounds like you use the event in the perfect way for you. And I totally hear you regarding that cringing… Thanks for sharing how you handle the day.

  4. Twenty years ago I was Celebrating Cancer Survivor Day in fact my family and friends went with me every year. I was young, healthy except for Breast Cancer Stage 2.
    Very hopeful, a lot of support from family & friends. Trust me there was plenty of scares in the last twenty years but I always positive that it will all work out and yes I was very grateful for everything I went through. I really respected the doctors and treatment we had to endure.

    This time around Sept 2013 not feeling so healthy and alive. Quality of life has been altered maybe forever. This was going to be a “cure” for me. My oncologist never once in 20 years used the words remission or cure. This time it was going to be a cure with simple lumpectomy and maybe radiation? I’m not going to add any more to this. I posted awhile back and didn’t get any response at all. It was quite long, you can say almost
    a small book. Forgive me for going on and on. I don’t remember the date but I found your site and responded to the drugs the doctors prescribe for us. I almost think they are worse than the cancer is. Worse part is Doctors are not involved in the outcome of what the drugs do to our body. The thing is that we are alive and breathing? Hope you don’t think I am ungrateful I was just venting and I truly believe patients have the right to do it. Part of the reason we get cancer is because of trying to please everybody else along with our poor diets and the environment we live in. Thanks for listening

    1. Felicia, Expressing your thoughts and feelings honestly does not mean you are ungrateful at all. You are welcome to vent any time.

  5. I think the first thing I noticed about NCSD was the little registered trademark symbol at the end of the name. I’m in a cancer-related business myself, so I guess I shouldn’t throw stones but I feel like this NCSD thing is an attempt for another organization to jump on the pinkwashing opportunity. It just feels too patronizing. I’m not even a “survivor” myself but I find it irritating. Isn’t October enough? I could see if this was a new effort and approach to really reach out and help people and get the efforts and dollars going into the right places. But it just feels like another attempt to profit on the backs of people with cancer. And yes there are too many people who are left out when you start labeling them with the “s” word. Still too many people who aren’t lucky enough to survive. Like you said, where is their day?

    1. Alene, I noticed that too. I appreciate hearing your insights since you are a medical professional and have not had cancer yourself. Interesting how even you feel irritated. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on NCSD.

  6. My med center does fun stuff, free food, get to see docs and fellow cancer fighters, and reconnect, I look for new opportunities like walking groups and retreats. Not warm and fuzzy but I enjoy it.

    1. Jane, I’m glad you enjoy your med center’s fun stuff and that you look for opportunities. Honestly, I don’t even know if my cancer center hosts any activities. I guess that would be interesting to find out. Thanks for sharing what you do on NCSD.

  7. Honestly I don’t give a rat’s ass about NCSD. I get the feeling that it is getting cool to have cancer with all these special days. Call me cynical if you want.

  8. Uugh, my personal thought on it is that it reeks of the US’ obsession with “winners over losers” no matter that the “losers” are every bit as worthy, and sometimes more so, as human beings as the “winners.” It must be incredibly painful for those with a bad prognosis.

    It would seem more appropriate to have a memorial day for those who didn’t survive it, in my mind.

      1. Thank you so much for that validation Nancy, it means a great deal.

        I’m guessing you, and millions of others, might also agree that a memorial day for those who have died (so very many times unnecessarily) in excruciating pain (and economic fear and ruin) would bring far more (serious, non “Cancer Industry”) needed attention to cancer than a [U$!] Survivor’s Day!™.

        Additionally, as to that Survivor’s Day, Community Outreach!™, a Memorial Day For those who died in unnecessary and excruciating pain – many at such a stunningly young age – would finally acknowledge how many black women disproportionally die so f’ing young with [barely researched] triple negative cancer, BRCA, and/or, a stunning lack of available, on time, treatment.

        1. Anon, You’re quite welcome. I would love to see a memorial type day for all those who have not survived. Not quite as easy to sell that idea in more ways than one. Thank you for your additional and important comments.

          1. So glad to hear to hear that.

            Directly related to surviving, I am bewildered that the FEDERAL BCCTP (Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program) program (it is not just screening, it provides full Medicaid (A LIFESAVER) for those below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, whereas regular Medicaid is far more restrictive) remains so unknown to those suffering from Breast and Cervical Cancer. I have spoken with two black women recently, working for Medicare, and my local Non Profit SHIP Provider (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) – one had many cervical cancer reocurrances, the other had a triple negative diagnosis – who were totally unfamiliar with the BCCTP program.

            When I last checked for comments regarding BCCTP the latest comment was made in 2013!!!!!!???????

          2. Anon, It’s unfortunate when people in need are not aware of resources available to help them. Thank you for doing your part to change that.

          3. How did us human beings ever get to such a place where something is required to be sale able [profit at the expense of others so many more times than not] before we are willing to put a full effort behind it:

            Not quite as easy to sell that idea in more ways than one.</blockquote)

            and, before we acted on saving another from horrid misery?

            we live – have been living in – in seemingly horrid times, hopefully we will recover, it is not looking so good, … at this ‘moment ’ in ‘time.’

          4. very sorry Nancy, I messed up the html block quoting code on my last comment by inserting an end parenthesis, versus a right pointing > sign, siiiigh, hopefully this will read as I had intended:

            How did us human beings ever get to such a place where something is required to be sale able [profit at the expense of others so many more times than not] before we are willing to put a full effort behind it:

            Not quite as easy to sell that idea in more ways than one.

            and, before we acted on saving another from horrid misery?

            we live – have been living in – in seemingly horrid times, hopefully we will recover, it is not looking so good, … at this ‘moment ’ in ‘time.’

    1. Eileen, It is complicated! So true. And as you know, I read and shared your post. Great food for thought there. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Oh my, I’m not so sure your’e not so steeped in rhetoric, and ‘OFF THE HOOK’ WITH YOUR COMMENT, that you even a clue as to how what you’ve written translates for those – and their beloved ones – who know they will die very shortly, not to even mention the fact that many of them are every bit as wonderful and kind human beings, and sometimes far moreso, as those who physically survive into a ripe old age.

      Shame on you, Dorcas Nduati, perhaps you should stop practising Cafeteria Religion, where you get to pick what suits only your teeny (doing fine!) physical world, yet horrifies others even further than they have already been horrified.

      1. Dorcas said nothing worthy of criticism. If you don’t agree with her faith, that is your business. You do not need to put her down for it.
        BTW, I am metastatic, and I thought her comment was beautiful.

    1. Laurie, Thank you for sharing, Laurie. Get back to blogging when you feel like it. We’ll be here. And thank you for including my link in your post. Keep resting and healing.

  9. Nancy, as time goes on, I get more and more uncomfortable with survivor events and celebrations. I don’t even feel sure the word survivor even fits me.
    When a ship sinks, survivors are the ones who get in lifeboats or who are pulled out of the water, not the ones who eventually sink and drown. I am metastatic. By the grace and mercy of God, I am still here for now, but my lifeboat has holes in it, and short of a miracle, will eventually sink.
    I have made my peace with my condition, but will continue to fight for more time with my family, especially grandbabies, with everything from medical treatments to prayer. And for now I am doing well. But, as grateful as I am to still be alive, I do not see celebrating as a survivor as appropriate in my case.

  10. Thank you for this page. I was looking for just the right quote or image to put up on my facebook page, but nothing really clicked for me. Why should I celebrate this day, stating I fought hard and I “survived”, when I saw my younger sister fight twice as hard and she didn’t make it. When I talk about being a survivor, a warrior, it’s not just about me, it’s about her too. We were both “survivors” for a while, did lots of outreach to Latina women together, talked about our BRCA mutation, but then she got it back. Now when I talk about my cancer journey, I include her journey because I am her voice.

    1. Betty, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I often talk about my mother’s experience, too, because just as you feel you are your sister’s voice, I feel I am my mother’s. In a way we are the voices for all who do not survive this disease. This is part of the reason I can’t support NCSD. Far too celebratory and too dismissive of those who truly deserve the honor and recognition – those like your sister and my mother. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you found my blog. I’m very sorry about your sister.

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