by 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.