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Whether it affects you or someone you love, cancer can turn your life upside down. You will likely experience a range of emotions, such as fear, uncertainty, and anger. One of the most difficult feelings may be a sense that you have lost control over the situation. At some point in the cancer journey, you may feel compelled to take action. Many cancer survivors and caregivers search for ways to make a difference in the lives of others touched by the disease—to transform their experience into change.
Cancer advocacy is speaking out on issues that you care about with the goal of improving the lives of people with cancer. A cancer advocate is someone who supports or defends a cause, idea or policy regarding cancer. Advocacy can include personal advocacy, advocacy for others, and advocacy in the public interest. It can be on an individual, local or national level. If you are a survivor or a caregiver, your voice is a powerful tool.
There are many ways to be a cancer advocate. You may decide to advocate for your own care or for the care of others. For example, you may support other patients and caregivers by sharing the lessons you learned. You may want to raise awareness about a specific disease, or lobby for increased funding for cancer research. You may decide to volunteer for fundraising events in your local community, such as a cancer walk/run. You may also work to change laws and policies that affect people living with cancer.
In addition, you can also become a self-advocate by taking an active role in your own cancer care. For example, becoming your own advocate can include communicating effectively with your health care team and asking questions. It can mean becoming informed about your treatment options and being part of the decision-making process. It can mean recruiting others, such as family and friends, to help sort through all the information. Mostly, it involves taking action on your own behalf.
Cancer advocacy can be a healing force. It can transform your outlook about the disease and put you back in control. Many cancer survivors and caregivers feel more empowered when they get involved in the fight against cancer.
Cancer advocacy can provide a sense of community and mutual support. Working alongside others for the same cause can provide survivors with a sense of hope. It gives you a chance to fight back against a disease that has changed your life in so many ways. Cancer advocacy allows you to give back to those who provided help in your time of need and also to help those newly diagnosed with your lessons learned. It can provide you with a platform to share your own stories about cancer with others. It provides an opportunity to speak out about critical issues directly affecting those living with cancer.
When you become a cancer advocate, it can also change the way you view yourself and your abilities. It can give you a sense of control in a time of uncertainty and help you move from the role of patient to survivor. You can choose how you want to volunteer your time, understand where you fit in and what skills you possess. You may discover hidden talents or see yourself in a different way.
Nobody can speak about cancer better than those who have been there. The voice of the survivor is indeed a powerful tool. Behind the voice is passion and dedication that comes only from personal experience. Cancer advocacy is one way to take action, to help others who will face a similar path you did. By sharing your voice and your knowledge, you can help to bring about change for those impacted by cancer.
Cancer may have made you feel a loss of control. Cancer advocacy can help you discover what you can control—which is what you do as a result of being diagnosed with the disease.
While battling cancer or being the caregiver of a cancer patient undoubtedly is, or was, one of the biggest challenges you have ever faced, becoming a cancer advocate can help empower and heal you, and transform the way you look at the disease. Your experience and knowledge can help someone else cope after a cancer diagnosis, which will in turn give you a greater sense of purpose. Your voice is power.
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