Meet Jen

How do you live with cancer – when you’re not the one diagnosed?

Jen O'Hare

There is a lot of helpful information about how to battle, survive and thrive with cancer – for those that are diagnosed. The resources one typically sees as a co-survivor and caregiver to be fuzzy (even sterile) when you’re in the thick of it.

I am often asked how I get through the weekly appointments, treatment schedules, being a healthcare advocate, staying true to yourself, the not knowing, the waiting and life in general (work, family, etc.).  I’m also asked how I don’t get lost in the heaviness of cancer. It’s hard, yet possible.

I’m Jen – and I’m a co-survivor.

The term “co-survivor” refers to someone who offers strength and support for the person facing cancer.

Co-survivors can be family and friends who assist someone living with cancer.  They are critical to the quality of life experienced at the time of diagnosis, while undergoing treatment and into survivorship.

The Term Co-Survivor Makes Me Crazy

I also don’t care for caregiver. I envision a 90-year old woman in a vintage nurse uniform scooting across a slippery floor with squeaky shoes handing out medicine in little plastic cups. Not me. Ever.

And yet, these terms are everywhere referring to those of us who advocate for and worry about our loved ones. And in truth, I have (and do) use these labels – many times – and every time I say it, something within cringes.

Staying Stuck Or Moving Forward?

I’ve met hundreds diagnosed with cancer. There are those who fight through treatment and regardless of the outcome, they move ahead with a deeper appreciation and yearning to make every second count. They choose to live their best life. At the other end, there are individuals that lose themselves in being a “survivor”. The label locks them into a state that prevents them from moving forward.

My fear is that I will lose myself or get locked into being a co-survivor. When cancer lives in the house, it dominates thoughts and decisions. Some days are easier than others to shift, laugh a little and feel a bit lighter. Other days I feel like it consumes me with little escape. My desire is to show up with compassion, patience, and grace along with a healthy dose of persistence, faith, and courage.

Secondhand Cancer Exists:

  • For those of us supporting a loved one battling this disease, my hope is that we can retain (and regain) a vibrant quality of life that celebrates our individuality – and not solely as co-survivors and caregivers.
  • To share tools and resources that help us better cope with the daily challenges of living in a house where cancer exists.
  • To provide a practical place for family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who want to offer support yet find themselves in unfamiliar territory. 

I want to hear your ideas and experiences!

 – Jen