I may be posting videos here from time to time. And Dr. Stubblefield seen below may get a lot of coverage, because he is clearly one of the pioneers in research involving Cancer Survivorship. This is just a very quick (2 minute) excerpt from a speech he gave on Radiation Fibrosis, which I will show in another post. Basically, he talks about how the number of survivors has increased with time. Give it a quick look if you will.
The simple fact is, since around the 1960’s more and more people are surviving longer and longer after cancer diagnosis. This is largely due to improved techniques in both radiation and chemotherapy, and the ability to target tumors with more precision.
But these techniques, though constantly improving, come with a price. And those of us who were treated and actually cured many years ago are now examples of what that price can be. In a way, I guess you could say we were the test subjects, and research into long term effects from our treatments are giving doctors information that they didn’t have before, simply because, before, people didn’t survive this long.
This month marks my 60th birthday, and my 44th year cancer free. Pretty amazing, right?
Because of what doctors are observing in cancer survivors today, they are figuring out how to treat more efficiently, to avoid similar late effects in future patients. This doesn’t mean all effects will be avoided, but quality of life should be improved for the future generations. It is my hope that one day, these late effects will no longer be a problem, but for the time being, and in my case, they are certainly very real.
And just as they are a part of my life, so are they a part of the lives of many cancer survivors, especially those of us who have come so far.
Most of us first generation survivors didn’t know what to expect. A lot still don’t. But not just the survivors – there are many doctors today that have no idea that symptoms they see in patients that were once treated for cancer may be related to their treatment from years ago.
If even one survivor, one doctor, one friend or relative of a cancer survivor is helped by becoming aware of what will be in this blog, then I will have done what I set out to do.
I’m sure this has been posted about, but I thought it would be a nice way to start off this blog, with optimism and promise. Life does exist after cancer. More and more people are beating the odds, and raising those odds as time passes. Take a look and see some of the shared responses from people all over.
NY Times Article: “A Picture Collage of Life After Cancer”
I’m not surprised at how many people seem to feel that having cancer changed their life, their perspective. And so many of the pictures show people doing things like climbing mountains, skydiving, the kinds of things most of us simply don’t make time for. If there is one thing cancer can teach you, it’s that life is precious.
I thought about adding myself to the collage – and may do so, but I really don’t know what to say. I can’t really say that cancer changed my life. I was fifteen when I had it. I was not yet fully formed, in body or spirit. Would I have been a different Judee if I had not had cancer? Would I see life differently? I like to think I would still be me regardless, but how can I know?
The thing is, even though I was old enough to know the seriousness of the diagnosis, to know that there was a 60 % chance I wouldn’t live another 5 years, I simply refused to believe I might actually die. My head told me one thing. My spirit told me another. Going to the radiation treatments was like an adventure. Laying on the table under that massive machine that looked like it was out of a sci-fi movie, watching the technicians line it up, and then laying still while it hummed its invisible rays into me, all I could manage was a kind of fascination with the whole process. It was a time of amazement and wonder.
I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve always had a sense of wonder about life. I saw its magical side long before I had cancer. I knew how precious it was, I didn’t need a disease to teach me that.
And while I’ve had my fair share of challenges throughout my life, including some very painful moments, I’ve never let go of that one truth, that each day is a gift, a blessing. EVen the painful moments are precious, because they teach us how strong we really are.
I realize how blessed I am to see what I see, to know what I know. It is what has helped me through the difficulties I now face, with my body wearing out; healthy, but changed by the very thing that cured me many years ago.
This blog will be talking about many things, some of them very unpleasant truths that cancer survivors may not want to have to deal with. And it is my sincerest hope that most of them won’t experience late effects. But for those who already do have problems, who are scared or unsure, who have moved past that initial high of having beat back the bad cells, won the battle of their life, and are now experiencing symptoms or emotions they don’t understand, I hope to be of help, even in a small way. Because every little bit of support does help, and knowing you are not alone can be a huge blessing in itself.