There is an intense camaraderie among cancer survivors. That sense of community motivates us to reveal our own journeys, to dig deep inside ourselves to unearth words, stories, suggestions that help someone else benefit from our own “been there, done that.”
My coworker and friend Katharine Ray has been such an inspiration and source of support for me. Just a few months after joining the staff of PearlPoint Cancer Support, I learned that my own cancer had recurred and metastasized. I walked into the door and straight to Katharine’s office. I knew she would share my ire at that turn of events, and that she would immediately have words of wisdom and support.
I had only known Katharine a few months, but I was aware of her own battle with cancer had inspired her to take her career path into cancer advocacy, as it did me. She was – and is – a tremendous source of support for me personally and professionally. Whenever there’s a scan, an appointment, a celebration, a disappointment, Katharine is ready to help put it into context. Whenever there’s a need to translate important information for our clients, Katharine is there with valuable input, from the context of her own journey and long experience of service.
A co-survivor is someone who travels on your cancer journey with you, with a spectrum ranging from deep involvement as a caregiver to simply engagement as a cheerleader, advocate. Katharine embodies for me and many others that kindness , sharing, and selfless support.
Today is the 39th anniversary of Katharine’s first cancer diagnosis as a teenager. We are sitting together at the Oncology Nursing Society conference, representing our great organization that has such a strong legacy of helping patients and caregivers. I can’t think of anywhere better to celebrate this huge milestone for Katharine, and I feel so fortunate to have toasted the big 39 with our coffee cups a short while ago.