It is completely understandable if you associate the term “cancer survivor” with an image of glamorous, defiant Gloria Gaynor claiming that She. Will. Survive. Or maybe with a courageous Lance Armstrong in his quest to reclaim the Tour de France. Or perhaps it is linked for you with heroic rhetoric and pink-related racing, walking and shopping.
I never call myself a survivor because when I hear this term, I recall my experience following each of four cancer-related diagnoses. It has not been triumphant. It’s been terrifying and grueling. It hasn’t taken courage to get through the treatment. It’s taken doing the best I can. I am not still here because I am defiant. I am here because I am lucky, because I am cared for by good clinicians who treated my cancers based on the best available evidence, and because on the whole, I participated actively in my care. But mostly I am here because each successive diagnosis was made as a result of being followed closely with regular checks and screenings and because my doctors responded effectively to questionable findings and odd symptoms.
There are 12 million Americans living today who have been treated for cancer. Not only are we at risk for recurrences but, as Dr. Julia Rowland, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute, notes, “Research shows that there are no benign therapies. All treatment is potentially toxic and some therapy may itself be carcinogenic. Today, people are living long enough to manifest the health consequences of efforts to cure or control their cancer.”
Who amongst our clinicians is responsible for helping us watch out for those consequences for the balance of our lives? Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*