My web site is devoted to medical and treatment information about this rare cancer. My blog is devoted to sharing what has been the more difficult part of the journey for me, the emotional and spiritual road I've traveled as a rare cancer survivor.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All or nothing?

It's interesting. Since my own diagnosis, my view of cancer and cancer treatment has changed. I think many of us have thought of cancer as an "all or nothing" disease for a long time. We are either cured or we aren't. We survive or we don't survive. Our cancer is either gone or it's there. The only good outcome is that our cancer is gone and we move on with our lives intact cancer-free.

We feel having cancer means we are on a path to death, and having no detectable cancer means we might have a chance of staying alive. All or nothing.

But I met a woman when I was in chemo who had been receiving chemo weekly for 4 years. She was not cured and she was not dying. She had a tumor that could not be removed surgically, but the tumor had not grown or spread or threatened her life in 4 years. She tolerated chemo well, and aside from living 4 hours of her life weekly in the oncology chemo room, her life was pretty much normal.

I've since been in contact with 2 long term appendiceal cancer patients who have never really been cancer free. They have been eight years and twenty years with appendix cancer recurrences. And in the meantime, between treatment, they have valiantly lived their lives. Productive lives. Meaningful lives. Lives that aren't just about cancer. They have survived in spite of cancer. Raised kids, pursued careers, lived lives...with appendix cancer.

I got to thinking about that. I was in chemo for about 4 hours once a week for many months after I was diagnosed. Not bad, but not how I would have chosen to use my time under other circumstances. But I'm a nurse. For years I've seen dialysis patients. Patients who live their lives hooked up to dialysis IV pumps for as long as we are hooked up to chemo pumps....but three days a week...for years. And they live long and productive lives in spite of that. Their lives are altered, but they still live. They still contemplate a future; they tolerate dialysis as they await a possible transplant and a new normal life.

I have now been exposed to many scientists involved in cancer research. They are so close to so many breakthroughs. There may come a day in our lifetime when there is a cancer cure...if we just wait and stay in treatment. Just like dialysis patients remain in treatment while they await a kidney transplant. The day when they can live without being in treatment.

That day that may come for us. The day cancer is defeated.

I want to be here to celebrate that day.

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