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Photo: JAMIE PESOTINE, License: N/A

Cancer survivors and their families gathered for a recent Cancer Survivors Day.

The Northeast Regional Cancer Institute defines a cancer survivor as anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis, regardless of whether the individual is receiving treatment or has completed treatment. The “Family of Survivors” includes cancer survivors, family members/caregivers, friends and healthcare professionals involved in their treatment. The Cancer Institute encourages the connection and support that exists within the Family of Survivors and believes in the importance of providing information and assistance to caregivers, healthcare professionals, friends and family, as well as the survivor.

As the number of cancer survivors increases, the quantity and quality of resources available for them also grows. Right now, there are approximately 13 million cancer survivors in the United States and more than half are five or more years beyond diagnosis. One tool that the Cancer Institute has been recommending for decades is the Cancer Survival Toolbox.

The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) was founded in 1986 and set out to establish an organization that would replace the words “cancer victim” with “cancer survivor,” and bring about a different notion of the cancer experience. NCCS represents the millions of Americans who share a common experience — the survivorship experience — living with, through and beyond a cancer diagnosis. That experience has value and can be a transforming, positive force. NCCS also knows that cancer survivors and those who care for them face many challenges.

The award-winning NCCS Cancer Survival Toolbox is a free audio program. It was created by leading cancer organizations to help people develop skills to better meet and understand the challenges of their illness. Produced through a collaboration between the NCCS, the Oncology Nursing Society and the National Association of Social Workers (with a grant from Genentech), the toolbox encourages people with cancer and their caregivers to take a more active role in their care.

The Cancer Survival Toolbox is for people at any point in their care. It is used by patients, health care professionals and by individuals or in support group settings.

The program contains a set of basic skills and special topics. Each scenario is inspired by true stories of real cancer patients.

The “basic skills” topics are: communicating, finding information, making decisions, solving problems, negotiating, standing up for your rights and first steps for the newly diagnosed.

The “special topics” include: caring for the caregiver, living beyond cancer and dying well — the final stage of survivorship.

The “extension modules” cover topics related to specific cancers of the blood: living with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, living with blood and marrow transplant, living with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, living with chronic myelogenous leukemia, living with multiple myeloma.

You can listen to the topics in order or pick the topics you are currently interested in. You can also listen multiple times, as many times as you need.

The NCCS has made the Toolbox easy to find and to use. It is on the NCCS website under resources (canceradvocacy.org/resources/cancer-survival-toolbox). Each topic page has a player where you can listen to the full program on the web site. When you click on each topic you can also print a document of that topic. The full Cancer Survival Toolbox also can be downloaded for free in the NCCS store. All programs of the Cancer Survival Toolbox are available for free as a podcast on iTunes. And the Toolbox is available in English and Spanish.

If you need help in finding and/or listening to any of the toolbox topics, contact the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute. In addition, the Cancer Institute has many other resources and events for the Family of Survivors.

Cancer Survivors Day — Honoring, Remembering, Sharing is an annual two-location event held every September in honor of all of the people from Northeast Pennsylvania who are affected by a cancer diagnosis. Each year, members of the Family of Survivors — which include cancer survivors, their families and friends, as well as caregivers and healthcare professionals — attend this event, which features the Circle of Survivors, an annual ceremony in which everyone has the opportunity to share a few words about their experience with cancer.

The Cancer Institute invites you to attend this year’s Cancer Survivors Day on Saturday, Sept. 23, 10 a.m. to noon in McDade Park in Scranton or Saturday, Sept 30, 10 a.m. to noon in Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre.

The Northeast Regional Cancer Institute encourages you to talk with your healthcare provider about your specific medical conditions and treatments. The information contained in this article is meant to be helpful and educational but is not a substitute for medical advice. The above information is from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and Cancer.Net. The Northeast Regional Cancer Institute can provide additional information on the above topic. Feel free to visit the Cancer Institute website at www.cancernepa.org, or contact the organization by calling (800) 424-6724.