Reaching remission status is a landmark moment in any cancer journey. According to figures by Cancer Research UK, the survival rate in the UK has doubled in the last 40 years. Screenings, advanced treatment options and greater public awareness have all made this possible. More patients like myself are hitting the all-important milestone and then find themselves within the unknown void that is survivorship, soon realising that life post-cancer can pose further challenges and frequent adjustments. With the turbulence this new journey can bring, as well as the mixed signals that wider society sends out, survivorship is complicated to say the least.

We all know the stereotype well – The cancer survivor: inspirational, optimistic and charitable. This favoured representation, captured in social media posts and adverts alike, shows a positive outlook, can-do attitude and thousands of pounds raised for charities via local fun runs. Although this might be true of some cancer survivors, this portrayal can be a hard act to follow and an unattainable image to try and imitate.

As cancer survivorship is still a recent phenomenon of the last century, we are yet to comprehend the full complexities of what life is like after the end-of-treatment bell is rung. Survivorship is a stark contrast to hospital visits and treatments that you become accustomed to. There is no consent form to be signed, no list of official side effects to be expected and no nurse or doctor holding your hand along the way. When you enter remission and earn the label ’survivor’, you enter no man’s land. Here you can find yourself lost in transition, astray from the opposing sides of the patient and ‘healthy’. You live between scans, afraid to make future plans and with the constant fear of recurrence – all while feeling pressure to perform as a survivor, be a source of encouragement and, all importantly, not let your illness define you.

It’s exhausting trying to navigate it all, often just as much a mental battle as it can be a physical one. One in three people diagnosed with cancer are estimated to develop a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression before, during and after treatment. This statistic demonstrates the need for more frank discussions about the candid realities of having cancer – ones that are often not highlighted enough due to their seemingly ‘taboo’ nature. We need to open all cancer discourse to address the implications it can have on both your physical and mental well-being regardless of whether you are in treatment or in remission.

To survive doesn’t have one look, between day to day, month to month, or even year to year – survivorship will be experienced differently by everyone that has to encounter it. There is not one way to live, so how could we possibly expect there to be one way to survive? Whatever your feelings about this time, they are always valid. So by all means take part in the fun runs, find a new zest for life and embrace the person after cancer with open arms – but have the down days, lie in bed bingeing the show you’ve seen a thousand times already and come back to life at your own pace, not at the speed of others.

That’s why here at Flynne’s Barn we are dedicated to support young people voice their own truths about each unique experience with cancer. At the Barn young people living with cancer connect in the knowledge that although the path might be long and strenuous, they are certainly not alone.

About the Author

Sophie Byrom has been volunteering since December 2021, working with us to ensure that the concerns and priorities for young people with a cancer diagnosis are fully considered throughout the services and information provided at Flynne’s Barn. This has included reviewing the website and giving feedback to help make it relevant and inviting for young people, and reviewing our counselling documents to make sure the service is as accessible as possible, bearing in mind the stigma that exists around mental health. In this blog series she will be posting on varied aspects of the cancer experience. Sophie also designs the artwork and infographics accompanying her writing!


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