Cancerversary - A Cancer Anniversary

A Milestone in Cancer that Only You Can Define


Some people remember because they can’t forget. For many, life is never the same again, and so a cancer anniversary, or cancerversary, is a very special date. It’s a highly individual thing, though, so nobody gets to tell a survivor how he or she should observe what some have called "another year of bonus life.”

Is this a New Thing?

People have always observed anniversaries of life-changing events, so in a sense, there is nothing new about a cancerversary.

However, what is relatively new is the social sharing of this occasion, and perhaps, therefore, the slightly different meaning it has for survivors, friends, and family.

Some survivors now observe their cancerversary by participating in a paying-it-forward-type event, such as biking 100 miles in support of cancer research and advocacy. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training (TNT) got its start in 1988, and it’s just one of the many groups survivors join to do endurance training for charity.

Cancerversaries and Social Media

If you search #cancerversary on Twitter, you will discover a vibrant and growing feed to browse. This kind of sharing touches the lives of others in many different ways, and on many levels. Search cancerversary on Pinterest and you will find survivor cakes, ribbons, and memes galore, but you’ll also find brave souls sharing their stories.

For those doing the posting, it’s not only a chance to observe and celebrate, but also to be introspective and reflect on cancer survivorship, and to help others who may have recently received a new cancer diagnosis or who are hoping for a remission.

For those who are currently battling cancer, cancerversary pins and posts offer a glimpse of potential cancer survivorship memories-to-come. Sometimes you can even see how others have met with specific challenges of cancer, and how they may have adapted and coped to pull through.

Ways to Observe

As Karen Raymaakers, a certified oncology nurse, aptly points out, there is never a bad time to celebrate cancer survivorship.

Here are some favorites from her article:

  • Take a hike and stop to smell the surroundings
  • Go outside and BREATHE the air
  • Spend the day with the person or people you love most
  • Organize a blood or marrow donor recruitment drive

More ideas from around the Web:

  • Join a survivor’s celebration walk or 5k
  • Organize a 'twitter storm' to raise awareness for cancer research
  • Make a hope mural
  • Every year, on your cancerversary, buy an expensive bottle of champagne and toast to life

Observing Someone Else’s Cancerversary

You don’t have to be a cancer survivor to get involved in a cancerversary. Observing a friend’s cancerversary might have even more meaning for that friend than remembering his or her birthday. A card might be a good start. Happy Cancerversary cards are available on Amazon.

Even the closest of friends and family, however, might want to keep in mind advice to survivors from the editorial board at “Talk in advance with family members and friends about how you want to handle a milestone because their experiences of your cancer and the ways in which they want to recognize that date may differ from yours.”

There may be a mix of emotions on a cancer anniversary--some gratitude, but also some fear of recurrence and perhaps a recollection of grief and other difficult emotions.

Be ready to celebrate, but also be ready to support.

Celebrating Life with Cancer

Some cancers do not yet have “cures” in the sense that current therapies only seem to keep cancer down for a few months, or a year at a time. For individuals with these kinds of cancer, it is common for survivors to receive multiple rounds of treatment just to give them more time here with us. Even when the future is uncertain, or when carrying the burden of unwelcome certainty, patients, their loved ones and communities can cherish and honor life to its very end.

One touching example is that Ethan Van Leuven, a brave young boy who recently lost his battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

In his last days with his family, his loving parents and a supportive community gave him Christmas, Halloween, and a birthday party, all at once.


National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. Accessed November 2014.

Survivors mark milestones with cancerversaries. Accessed November 2014

Fox News. Community celebrates holidays early for terminally ill boy. Accessed November 2014.

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