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College of Nursing

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National Cancer Survivors Day

National Cancer Survivors Day is a celebration of those who have survived, an inspiration for those recently diagnosed, a gathering of support for families, and an outreach to the community.

CON faculty and cancer survivors, Joan Creed and Kathy Mercer are two incredible women who use their cancer stories as a reminder to live life to the fullest. 

Joan Creed, Assistant Professor

As a nurse you’ve treated sick people- how did you feel as the patient?

At first, I was so mad I could hardly see straight. I did not like being a patient, never have, never will. It’s not my role. I did depend on the nurses, doctors, and other staff with their information because they are the experts. I felt confident in questioning them when I needed to.

How did you remain positive during treatment?

I had to make a real attitude adjustment. Of course, we hear all the time that attitude is everything and that a positive attitude helps. I’m typically a positive person and decided to channel my negativity into positivity because it helps me and everyone with whom I come in contact. My faith helped a lot. I had a good “come to Jesus” prayer time during my second chemo treatment that really helped get me on the positive path.

What were the challenges during treatment?

Handling side effects. I do not like to be sick or depend on others, but I had to. I’m more used to caring for others and taking care of myself without help so it was hard at times to depend on others.

How has your life changed since overcoming cancer?

I do not take things for granted. I appreciate everything, even the little things. I take life as it comes and don’t look far into the future. I appreciate the little things again, seeing and enjoying life with the eyes of a child.

What message would you give to those battling a cancer diagnosis?

Stay positive. Depend on others. Take time to care for yourself. Use your faith and whatever you need to get you through the days, particularly the rough ones.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Learn all you feel you need to know about your disease. There is so much out there that it can be overwhelming. Talk to others who have gone through the same or a similar experience. You do not have to take everyone’s advice. Some advice is good, some not so good. Sift through and use what works for you because not all of it will work for you.

Another thing that helped me was to use social media. I told my story and shared my journey and tried to inspire others. I started a #kickcancerbootcampaign that soared on Facebook. It lifted my spirits to see others supporting me. After my last radiation treatment, I had two Zoom celebrations and had such fun seeing family and friends who joined in. The love, support, and prayers of so many was truly overwhelming and so appreciated!

Kathy Mercer, Instructor (Clinical Nutrition)

What type of cancer were you diagnosed with?

Breast Cancer (Invasive ductal), Stage 2 A. Diagnosed September 2009, finished treatment May 2010 (I am a 10 year cancer survivor!)

As a healthcare provider you've treated patients in the clinical setting- how did you feel being the patient? 

Being the patient made me realize the powerful impact health professionals can have on those they care for. My surgeon, oncologist, and chemo nurses were very professional, knowledgeable and compassionate. This gave me confidence in them and contributed to me having a positive, "get it done" attitude throughout the cancer journey.

How did you remain positive during treatment?  

My faith gave me peace in knowing that God was in control. Trusting in God and my health care team reduced my fear and anxiety. I did not feel the need to read everything about my cancer and it's treatment, although my husband (who is also a health professional) did. I let him summarize the information (cancer patients get a ton of it!) and give me the options. It helped me to focus more on prayer and healing than on science/medicine and details. I also found an amazing support group called the Pink Posse while I was going through treatment. Meeting these very positive and energetic ladies let me see that I could be a survivor and got me thinking about how I could use my journey to make a positive impact on others with cancer.

 What were the challenges during treatment?  

The biggest challenge for me was giving myself permission to not do all the things I had on my plate before my diagnosis. My children were in high school, so we had a busy calendar. I was also teaching several sections of Clinical Nutrition so I had to arrange my treatment around my class schedule and sometimes felt tired. However, I really did not suffer from many other side effects of treatment. Everyone in my life (family, friends, co-workers and students) were so supportive and caring.  It made me realize that I had a lot of people who cared about me, which always feels good.

 How has your life changed since overcoming cancer?

I think I value time with family, friends, and God more.  My faith is stronger and I see life as more of a gift from God. I notice and appreciate beauty in the world more and don't sweat the small stuff quite as much. I also feel a calling to support other cancer patients and help them see blessings in the cancer journey. I have taken the leadership role in the Pink Posse and am thankful that cancer gave me a wonderful group of special friends. We support each other and visit patients who are going through treatment. 

 What message would you give to those battling a cancer diagnosis?  

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified, for the Lord your God goes with you ..." (Deuteronomy 31:6). Trust God, find good doctors, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and give others the blessing of letting them help you. Do not turn down the meals and kind gestures of others because you want to appear strong.  Find a good support network that includes someone who is a cancer survivor with a positive attitude (or find a support group).  Remember that cancer puts you in a unique position to help others when treatment is over - don't be afraid to talk about your journey and be sure you take a bald picture!

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.