It’s one of the worst pieces of news any family can ever hear: someone near and dear has been diagnosed with cancer.

In most situations, cancer comes as a huge shock. Everyone starts looking for answers; it’s as if life is moving in slow motion. The patient, family and friends alike have so many questions: What caused this? Was there something that could have been done differently? What happens next? What are the chances of survival? Typically, most questions are left unanswered or can only be answered with time. The only thing anyone knows — anything and everything must be done to save a life. And so it begins.

Patients with cancer and their families know how tough this process is, the process to save one’s life. It may be as simple as a skin biopsy to remove a mole; or the cancer is encapsulated and must be removed surgically; or the cancer has metastasized from one organ of the body to other parts of the body or other organs and it takes a combination of surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation to destroy it. Being diagnosed with stage 1 cancer, which is typically one part of the body or just one organ, has a brighter outlook than stage 4, which means the cancer has spread throughout the body. But regardless of the situation, knowing that basically one’s own body is trying to kill you or someone you love from the inside out is a huge emotional roller coaster for everyone involved.

Cancer, for the most part, is nondiscriminatory. It affects people of all ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic classes, body types, etc. Some are fortunate enough to catch it early; some people die shortly after their diagnosis. The worst part is that many cancer cases could possibly have been prevented, based on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 report.

“The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2012 about 173,200 cancer deaths will be caused by tobacco use (lung and bladder cancers). Scientific evidence suggests that about one-third of the 577,190 cancer deaths expected to occur in 2012 will be related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition and thus could also be prevented.

Certain cancers are related to infectious agents, such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), human papillomavirus (HPV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), and others, and could be prevented through behavioral changes, vaccines, or antibiotics. In addition, many of the more than 2 million skin cancers that are diagnosed annually could be prevented by protecting skin from intense sun exposure and avoiding indoor tanning,” states the report.

National Cancer Survivors Day is Sunday, June 3. With the coming of the national day of observance this weekend for those still living with a history of cancer, it is critical not only that we find a cure for all cancers, but commit to common-sense principles of living a healthy lifestyle. American society has certainly derailed itself, indulging in behaviors directly linked to cancer, but yet we still act surprised when we hear of almost any cancer diagnosis. This National Cancer Survivors Day, rejoice in life by promoting good health; and be vigilant at monitoring changes in our bodies, lest we have to face that frightening path back to good health. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or just possibly, a life.

The Wellness Community Valley/Ventura will be hosting National Cancer Survivors Day Picnic on June 2, from 1 to 4 p.m., at 530 Hampshire Road in Westlake Village. It is free to cancer survivors and their family and friends. RSVP (805) 379-4777.