About the “Perspectives on Cancer Survivorship” Patient Partner Series

What is cancer survivorship? By definition, survivorship is the absence of cancer after the completion of treatment or living with, through, and beyond cancer [1]. However, depending on a patient’s cancer and treatment, their perspective on survivorship will vary. The intention of this series is to highlight these variations among patient partners, to further the understanding of life after cancer.  

To Nicole Keay, a cervical cancer survivor, survivorship is about navigating through grief after treatment. At the age of 33, Nicole was diagnosed with cervical cancer, a diagnosis that would shift the future that she had envisioned. Although finishing her treatments in 2016 would have been something to look forward to, she continues to face the grief of not being able to have children of her own as a result of her treatments. In her case, having to accept the loss of fertility continues to be more difficult than moving past her cancer diagnosis.  

Upon finishing active treatment, Nicole wished she had been better prepared for life after cancer. There was a significant difference in the types of support she received during her cancer treatment in comparison to her survivorship journey. While she was in active treatment, she had a team of healthcare providers who were accessible to her and who could help answer any questions she had.  

After completing her treatments, Nicole also experienced medically induced menopause, which occurs when there is the surgical removal of ovaries, chemotherapy or radiation damage to ovaries, or use of medications to induce menopause [2]. Because she was already done treatments and was no longer being seen by oncologists, Nicole felt that she often had to navigate this aspect of survivorship on her own.  

“After leaving the BC Cancer Agency, everything in life didn’t just go back to normal, and I think there is a perception of that” says Nicole. To cope with all these changes during her survivorship journey and to find some normalcy, she distracted herself by immediately returning to work and taking on multiple volunteer positions. Eventually, this led to burnout. Since no one had talked to her about the importance of healing and recovery post-cancer, it took a few years for Nicole to allow herself space to heal. 

As a patient partner at the Gynecologic Cancer Initiative and as the co-host of the GOSH Podcast, Nicole is thrilled to have access to plenty of information and opportunities. As a gynecological cancer survivor, she hopes to create a community for other survivors or those on their cancer journey to feel supported.  

You can listen to the GOSH podcast on the following streaming platforms!  

Buzzsprout: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1387837  

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/4IegnBHqfSGd45pwT9B8d7  

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/gosh-podcast/id1537160559?uo=4  

[1] According to https://www.cancer.net/survivorship/what-survivorship 

[2] According to https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopause-faqs-premature-early-and-induced-menopause#:~:text=What%20is%20induced%20menopause%3F,the%20treatment%20of%20certain%20diseases. 

Nicole is an experienced communications professional who has worked in healthcare, non-profit, and telecommunications. She is also a patient partner with the Gynecologic Cancer Initiative (GCI) and co-hosts the newly launched Gynecologic Oncology Sharing Hub (GOSH) podcast. In her early 30s, Nicole was diagnosed with cervical cancer and underwent intense treatment including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy resulting in the loss of her fertility. Nicole now uses her experiences to help guide, support, and be a voice for women who have been diagnosed with gynecological cancers.