Cancer Meets College

There are many events in life that give us the opportunity to speak up or shy away. College gave me several of those opportunities, and a handful of those related to cancer. College showed me how many people are impacted by the big C but afraid to say the rest of the word; cancer. This was terrifying to me, beginning life on campus as a recovering cancer patient, searching for the friends who would understand like my high school friends (that’s another story). But college surprised me, or I surprised myself, with the positive outcomes of every encounter related to cancer. These interactions taught me 5 important things to remember when talking about cancer on a college campus:

5. Everyone on campus has been impacted by cancer.

Your roommates, your teammates, your classmates, even your professors and advisers all have a story. The person serving you lunch, the one making you coffee, checking out your books, and the person bumping into you in the hallway. Each person knows someone, if not themselves, who have had cancer.

4. Positive words can have negative implications.

Congratulating a survivor on ‘beating cancer’ might imply that those who didn’t survive ‘lost the battle’ or weren’t strong enough to ‘win’. Some of the strongest fighters I knew had to end their battle, not because of weakness, but because they wanted peace. Choosing peace is the greatest victory of all, so even if the outcome wasn’t life, the fighter still won.

3. On a crowded campus, some are alone.

For some students, college is a completely new environment where they don’t know anybody else. Someone at home might be battling cancer, but the student can’t miss a big test to go visit. It is important for these people to remember #5, and that they can likely talk to anyone and find a connection within a common story.

2. Accurate research is at your fingertips.

Looking into a cancer topic on the internet can be scary, but might also be comforting. This can also be the start of a new, positive conversation if you stumble upon surprising survival rates for childhood cancer during childhood cancer awareness month (September). It is no surprise that students have access to infinite resources between their phones and their libraries on campus. Take advantage of them; you’re not the only one with questions.

1. Support starts with you.

Everyone on campus has been impacted by cancer. Some might have more positive thoughts, some might gravitate toward the negative. Some might feel alone, some might lean on the facts. All things considered, support starts with you. Reach out, share your smile, share your research, share your support.

There are many events in life that give us the opportunity to speak up or shy away. When it comes to cancer, what would you do?

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