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Be a Cancer "Thriver," Not Just a Cancer "Survivor"

16 Aug 2014 | Posted Under Cancer

Be More Than a Cancer Survivor…Be a Cancer Thriver!



            Having faced off against a life-threatening illness and survived is certainly an accomplishment. So it is understandable that “cancer survivor” is a label that is cherished by many who have successfully completed this kind of treatment. Yet, while I am happy to be a participant in this lucky group, I’ve never felt comfortable identifying myself by the designation “cancer survivor.” Even though the purpose of this label is to allude to a positive outcome, the “survivor” part–to me–just feels too limiting. Yes, it is great to survive… but is that enough? Certainly not for me! In my practice as a psychotherapist, I’ve always told my clients, “I am not a therapist who considers reduction of symptoms good enough. I go for the whole enchilada­–complete personal and spiritual transformation!” So if I don’t settle with my clients’ goals, why should I settle for mine?

            I don’t. That is why I adopted the term “cancer thriver” to replace “cancer survivor” when I speak of my post-treatment identity. But, to put this into perspective, I did not “thrive” immediately. In fact, it was a two and a half year process to move from Okay, I really am glad to be alive and have the prospect of seeing my grandchildren grow up after all. But will I ever return to my psychotherapy practice? Or ever write another book, or even a few articles? Do I have any ambition left in me? …to… Now I’m back!...No not just back, but back and feeling even more engaged and motivated than ever before!

            I’ll be honest. I was depressed during my treatment and for probably a good year after. But it wasn’t an emotional depression. Being a therapist, I knew what to look for and after wracking my brain for hours each day looking for an emotional cause for my life is just not that interesting…I can take it or leave it feeling. I finally came to the conclusion that my physical body had been so depleted that there was simply no energy left for the mental, emotional or spiritual aspects of my personality to draw from. So life had a flat, grey feeling tone for a long time.  

  Fortunately, as I gained my physical strength back, my zest for life slowly returned as well.  (At the time, I was unaware of some “thriver” strategies that could have gotten me to that status much faster!) Still, now, seven years out from my initial diagnosis and five years post-treatment (chemo, radiation, double mastectomy, reconstruction surgery), I am doing more than I was doing even before treatment. And I feel a renewed purpose and meaning in my life. I have projects to complete, ideas to share and people to interact with. Physically, as well as emotionally and mentally, I feel the best I have felt in much of my adult life.

So, as I reviewed my “bucket list,” I decided that I did have one more book in me, and I have recently completed that project. Now, with that behind me, I am finding myself drawn to the idea of sharing the “Cancer Thriver” mindset. I know that for some people, just having an opportunity to go on living and to participate in daily life as they did prior to their diagnosis is enough. But there are others, like me, who may feel an inner pull toward discovering the “meaning” of their journey. They may feel a desire to live with more intention and purpose, now that they have been given “a second chance.” At the very least, there may be a desire to reflect on life and renew or rearrange priorities.

If you would like to have me share my "Cancer Thriver" message with you or your group, contact me, using the info. below.

Wishing you all the best....


Rita Milios, LCSW, the Mind Mentor, is a psychotherapist, author and workshop presenter from Kissimmee, FL. She can be reached for information regarding workshops or spiritual coaching services at Or call Rita at 863-496-7223.


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