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by author, natural beauty expert & cancer survivor Britta AragonRSS

What Does Surviving Mean to You? “Voices of Survivors” Helps Cancer Patients Define Their Lives

By Britta Aragon on July 19, 2009 | 4 Comments

Lynn Lane, founder of “Voices of Survivors,” shooting a documentary film in Southern West Virginia.

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.

Posted in: Great Cancer Organizations, Surviving Cancer

4 Comments to “What Does Surviving Mean to You? “Voices of Survivors” Helps Cancer Patients Define Their Lives”

  1. Judith Rich says:

    This is an interesting question. I just had surgery for breast cancer and received the path report of “clear margins’ and no further treatment necessary. So I guess I could say I’m a cancer “survivor”. But I don’t think in those terms. I came through an experience of cancer, stronger, I feel, in my commitment to BE HERE NOW and fulfill my purpose.

    I am fortunate. I didn’t have to go through chemo or radiation and I’m sure those experiences impact one in a way I was not. So I cannot speak as a cancer survivor who endured these treatments. Perhaps if I had, I too, would feel more like it was something I “survived”.

    From a language standpoint, though, maybe some people are empowered by the use of the term. Perhaps it reminds them of the mountain they climbed and the courage and strength it took to make it. I can understand how “survive” fits in this context.

    For me, cancer was a wake up call, a reminder that my time is limited here and to bring a new sense of urgency to being in life as a servant to fulfilling my purpose. I embrace and welcome the teachings of cancer with renewed passion and commitment for doing what I came to do in this lifetime.

    Thanks so much for this wonderful blog and the opportunity to give people a chance to share their voices on this very important subject.


  2. Britta says:


    Congratulations on the outcome of the surgery!! This is wonderful news. I believe that being a “survivor” is beating cancer, no matter how long it took to do so. Perhaps, for you, the lesson of a “wake-up” call only took the diagnosis and the surgery for you to truly understand what the cancer came into your life for. Cancer comes and teaches us so much including what gratitude really means.

    Thank you for inspiring us all for the way you live your life, you touch so many hearts on a daily basis.

    Much love, strength and survival,

  3. JBBC says:

    Hi Britta, for me surviving cancer has given me the precious gift of re-committing myself to my life. I feel like I have been given a second chance and don’t want to waste the opportunity to do some good for others, which is why I became a breast cancer advocate. It has given my life a deeper meaning.

  4. Britta says:

    Hi Marie! Our struggles in life help us to find purpose and direction and help us to focus on those things which are important. I am glad we are on the same path to help others through the cancer journey. I like reading your blog, very informative – Thank you for working to help other fighters and survivors. Best, Britta

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