Saturday February 24 12:36 PM EST
"For Courage, These Survivors Honored"
For Courage, These Survivors Honored
By Nancy A. Melville
SATURDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthScout) -- Being a survivor may have become the stuff of prime time pop culture, but to those who this week received the first national Courage Awards, the struggle to survive truly has been a matter of life or death.
That's because the recipients are all cancer survivors. And, while they may not have won a million dollars like the prime-time survivors, their stories are priceless to countless others who find themselves in similar life-threatening situations. They include:
- Mary Coffin: a teen-ager with inoperable brain cancer, who on her own has raised more than $15,000 for cancer research
- Diane Nero-Gaines: a semi-quadriplegic breast cancer survivor who helps educate and reform incarcerated women
- Jennifer Andrade: a 20-year old from the Bronx who has been battling two types of cancer for three years, yet still volunteers to help other patients
- JoAnn Concannon: a 57-year-old who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 24 and endured a decade of surgeries to remove cancerous tumors. Through it all, Concannon has worked to raise funds for St. Jude's Children's Hospital in New Jersey and raised a daughter.
Currently, there are more than 8 million cancer survivors in the United States. More than 1 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
The Courage Awards were established to recognize the survivors of the disease and to offer their stories as much-needed encouragement and inspiration for those newly diagnosed with cancer.
And that's important, the award sponsors say, in light of a recent survey showing that what cancer patients want most during treatment -- but often don't get -- is the chance to talk with others who have been in their shoes.
For instance, award recipient Concannon credits her survival to the support of her husband, her faith in God and her desperate desire to see her child grow up. But, she adds, the support of other cancer patients and survivors is something she wishes had been available early on.
"When I first became ill, they didn't have the kinds of support groups that they have now, so outside of my family and doctors, I didn't have any kind of support source," Concannon says.
"But I probably could have used someone to talk to because you can tell your family and they can relate to a certain extent, but unless you've been through it, you don't really know what it's like," she says. "You need to hear from other people and talk to other people that are going through the same thing."
"It's wonderful to let other cancer survivors and patients know that they aren't alone and that many others are going through the same thing," Concannon says. "I try to help whoever I can that way, whenever I can."
Sandi Kafenbaum, a coordinator at the Adelphi New York Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program, says Concannon's feelings are shared by many who feel the need to communicate with others in the same situation.
"People around you may try to cheer you up and offer false hope, or they may be very good and listen to what you're saying, but you know they can't feel your pain the way someone who's been there can," Kafenbaum says.
"In addition, support groups offer the anonymity of being with people who are not your family and who you don't have to worry about protecting," she says. "They're not going to worry about you and what you say and how you look as much as your family or friends might. And, when you take away that dynamic, it really frees up the conversation."
Concannon says she's thrilled that her story of survival can help inspire others.
"I know how hearing the story of someone else who's going through the same thing, especially a survivor, can give you the hope and incentive to keep going," she says.
"And if I can help someone this way, it makes me so happy," she says.
The awards -- sponsored by Cancer Care, the Nursing Oncology Society, AmGen Corporation and In Touch magazine -- were given Feb. 19 to 12 recipients.
What To Do
For an array of information on learning from cancer survivors, visit the American Cancer Society's
Cancer Survivors Network. And for more on the Courage Awards, check out
Or, you might want to read previous HealthScout articles on
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