A Survivor’s Perspective: Takeaways from Wilmot’s 2019 Survivorship Symposium
By Kate Rowe VanderBrook, Kidney Cancer Survivor
As I drove to the Wilmot Cancer Institute’s 2019 Survivorship Symposium, an overwhelming feeling of sadness came over me. Sadness because cancer is now and always will be a part of my life.
However, that sadness was short lived. As the event got underway, I realized that being there was one of the best things I could have done for myself. I was quickly comforted in feeling that I could relate to almost every speaker.
My Takeaways from the Survivorship Symposium:
You become a survivor at diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis changes you. At Wilmot, I felt like they “had my back” every step of the way. We were able to put a plan in place and when that happened, I knew I was in the very best hands.
You are a survivor forever. With every new scan, blood test, or, in my case, urine tests, you readdress and access your cancer thoughts and fears. But with each positive result, you are a survivor.
Don’t let anyone try to tell you to “move on” from your cancer. If you’ve never had cancer, how do you know how it feels? You don’t. I appreciate that people mean well, so I politely nod my head and say “I hope in my heart of hearts that you never have to go through cancer.”
There are days when your cancer is “straight up, in your face” and days you don’t think about it at all. And both are okay. Before cancer, I never paid attention to TV commercials for treatment drugs. After cancer, I’ve never had so many doctor appointments! More so now, I reach out to friends who are in treatment and empathize with folks beginning their cancer journey. I’m a relatively new cancer survivor, so there aren’t many days I don’t think about it. I know those days are ahead. I say a silent “Thank You” to everyone at Wilmot and make a note to take cookies up to the nurses and staff on WCC5.
It’s okay for you to do you. Cancer is a lifelong journey and it’s okay to express yourself however you feel comfortable. I’ve created an Instagram account (@cancer_a_forever_journey) as a place to put my thoughts and where I can relate to others living with cancer. It’s a community I never in a million years thought I’d be a part of, but the support is amazing! With “my team” at Wilmot, I know that I will continue to thrive as a survivor. The care, concern and compassion everyone at Wilmot has is unparalleled. I will forever be eternally grateful. And I am already looking forward to next year’s Survivorship Symposium!
Kate Rowe VanderBrook was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2018. She received treatment at Wilmot Cancer Institute and shares her experiences on social media. Kate lives in Rush, New York, with her husband, Peter, and beagle, Henry. She enjoys skiing, photography, dogs and spending time with her friends and family, especially her two grandchildren.
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