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Survivorship Series: When do you stop thinking about the cancer?

annekatzby Anne Katz, PhD, RN 

This Monthly Survivorship Series, written by CKN Survivorship Editor, Anne Katz, is provided by CKN with permission from ONS.  We hope this series will become a useful resource that will help to facilitate dialogue between cancer patients, their loved ones and their physicians with a view towards improving the quality of life for cancer survivors.  

I had an inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion with a 20+ year can­cer sur­vivor the other day. She had called me on some other busi­ness (a job ref­er­ence for a col­league of mine) and she men­tioned that she knew of my work in sex­u­al­ity. She then told me that she had been treated for breast can­cer 20 years ago.  “Ahh, ” I said, wait­ing to hear where the con­ver­sa­tion would go.  I thought that per­haps she would tell me her story, or ask advice about a sex­ual issue (yes, per­fect strangers will ask about that in all sorts of places), but instead she said in a firm voice:

“Why do peo­ple with can­cer hang on to their can­cer expe­ri­ence for so long?”

I really didn’t have an answer and the ques­tion was really rhetor­i­cal. She explained that while her can­cer had changed her for­ever, she refused to be defined by it. It was in the past, not for­got­ten, but not some­thing that was cen­tral to her every­day life.

Not every­one has that atti­tude, and there really is no right or wrong in this. I have noticed the same men present when I speak at a local prostate can­cer sup­port group. Every year, there they are. Some were treated more than 15 years ago and still they attend the sup­port group. Is it because they come to hear me? Or do they attend to pro­vide sup­port to newly diag­nosed men? Or is it a social out­ing for them?

When does the can­cer expe­ri­ence no longer define a person’s life? What do you think?

Read Anne’s last post here.


This entry was posted in all, Living with Cancer, Living with Cancer and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Survivorship Series: When do you stop thinking about the cancer?

  1. Depends on the individual. I think it marks all of us for life, with the background worry that it may come back, the intensity of which reflecting both one’s attitude and the nature of the character. Hopefully, the cancer layer of one’s identity diminishes with time as we engage in life again, and continue to develop our interests and non-cancer parts of our identity, which are obviously more central to who we are.

  2. Pingback: Survivorship Series: Ringing the Bell | Cancer Knowledge Network

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