What does it really mean to be a “survivor?” The term is constantly used in the media and related cancer publications, but if you’ve actually experienced cancer in your life, what does survivorship really mean? That’s what Lynn Lane, founder/executive director of “Voices of Survivors,” has dedicated his life to find out.
“A lot of people don’t like the word ‘survivor,’” he says. “Does it mean you’re just barely hanging on, or you ‘just’ survived? We’re not just surviving. We’re living. We’re thriving.”
Diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was only 41, Lynn found the experience very isolating.
“There wasn’t anyone in my peer set that could relate,” he says. “I was way too young to have prostate cancer, or so I thought. I looked online for ways to connect with other people who were going through what I was. I found some great sites that really helped, like I’m Too Young for This and Planet Cancer, but coming from a film background, I longed to see something more visual; to put a face on survivorship.”
After his surgery, Lynn turned his attention to the project that’s now evolved into a nonprofit organization-Voices of Survivors-and began interviewing people from around the world, asking them to define what being a “survivor” meant to them. “Too often the only thing the public sees about cancer comes from a medical standpoint. Things like hospitals, doctors, people with no hair, children in a St. Jude commercial, and older people. But cancer effects all kinds of people. If you looked at me at any point prior to and after my diagnosis, for example, you’d have never known I had cancer. When you watch these videos [on the web site], you’ll see that these people look just like you and me.”
So what does being a survivor mean? Lynn keeps his definition to himself, to avoid influencing others-and because he finds his definition tends to change. “With each person that shares his/her voice, I learn more about myself and what my definition is-what it means to find inner strength and to know every day that no matter what you’re faced with, you can overcome it.” Over 50 videos and 40 ‘Written Word’ pieces are already available on Lynn’s site, each one allowing a single person to define what being a survivor means to him or her. Through sharing each other’s experiences and insights, survivors can find new hope and inspiration.
Chosen to be a delegate in the LiveSTRONG Global Cancer Summit in Dublin, Ireland in August of this year, Lynn has great plans for Voices of Survivors. The ongoing, online documentary is just the beginning. “It’s going to be a larger media organization, to reach out to more people,” he says. “I’m not trying to change the medical industry. I want to change people-give them hope and the opportunity to see other people surviving, so they can find their own definition of what being a survivor means.
“Most people, when they’re given a cancer diagnosis, initially think, ‘I’m going to die.’ Voices of Survivors helps people decide to live-and to examine how they’re going to live. Despite this diagnosis, whether yours is terminal or not, you are a survivor if you have cancer-the very moment you hear those three words, ‘You have cancer,’ and every one thereafter. I want to encourage people to take their power back. Don’t let cancer define your life. You define it. Be your own advocate, because it is your fight!”
If you’d like to share your voice on Voices of Survivors, Lynn invites you to contact him on his web site.
Have you defined what being a survivor means to you? Please share your story.