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A cancer survivor is an individual with cancer of any type, current or past, who is still living. The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS) pioneered the definition of survivor as from the time of diagnosis and for the balance of life, a person diagnosed with cancer is a survivor. This expansive definition of "survivor" includes people who are dying from untreatable cancer. NCCS later expanded the definition of survivor even further to include family, friends and caregivers who are affected by the diagnosis in any way.

The National Cancer Institute's Office of Cancer Survivorship uses a variant of this expanded definition, which is sometimes ridiculed for the potential to abuse its inclusiveness: "I got cancer, and the government now says every person in my whole neighborhood is a so-called cancer survivor."[1] Oddly, cancer is the only disease in which friends and neighbors are officially encouraged to use language with the potential to misidentify themselves as having personally been diagnosed with the disease instead of being a voluntary caregiver. This is essentially unknown among people with similarly devastating diseases, such as AIDS, Alzheimer's, or heart disease.

Many cancer survivors describe the process of living with and beating cancer as a life-changing experience.[How to reference and link to summary or text] It is not uncommon for this experience to bring about a personal epiphany, which the person uses as motivation to meet goals of great personal importance, such as climbing a mountain or reconciling with an estranged family member.

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