Cancerversary! An anniversary she never wanted but one she will take with a grateful deep breath and seasoned trepidation. 10 years of being cancer free has taught my dear friend some unexpected lessons. Those lessons are vicariously passed along to caregivers (aka co-survivors) too. Loving them through it doesn’t end with cancer treatment. It’s a lifelong commitment.
It’s a cancer journey. No one signs up for the ride. No one wants to take it. The story unfolds differently for every survivor; no two are alike. Still, they mirror one another in gratitude moments. Another birthday; another graduation; another wedding; another grandchild; another make-a-wish come true; another cancerversary! To my dear friend: “I’m here, praying you through another surgery. 10 years cancer free and still it is not free.”
No evidence of disease is a more widely used term among physicians than saying “you’re cancer free” and that’s for good reason. The ripple effects of cancer can last a lifetime for many survivors. Physical, emotional, social, financial, spiritual — cancer affects the whole person and everything related to that whole person. There are certain blessings in being cancer free, in counting years of survivorship, and being able to manage the ripple effects. We can, and should, celebrate those milestones; cancer is more often treatable and survivable. None of which is ever true when it comes to Alzheimer’s. We can only hope …and pray … someday that will be the case. Still cancer free isn’t free. There are consequences to surviving it. For some it’s a season, for many it’s a lifetime.
To my survivor friends: I see where this journey has taken you. I see the ripple effects its caused. I see your courage and perseverance. I see where free didn’t mean free. I see more now than I did 10 years ago. These unexpected lessons motivate me to share the importance of knowing, praying, loving, and supporting those in treatment and long beyond it.
To the breast cancer survivor whose implants won’t last a lifetime … and no one ever told you so … turns out being cancer free didn’t free you from the cancer ripple effects. To another survivor whose hormonal suppressive therapy caused retinal detachment, learning alongside those “practicing” medicine leaves much in its wake. Thankfully, a miraculous early-detection saving of sight in your case. The journey continues. I am here magnifying hope, wherever and however I can.
To the colon cancer survivor whose feet are heavy and numb with pain, my heart goes out to you too. That peripheral neuropathy affected your hands too — watch what you touch, not too hot and not too cold. The chemo ended but its ripple effects did not.
Managing the side effects is a whole other set of lessons in cancer care. Knowing more means cancer free isn’t free. The ripples effects often continue even when treatment ends.
To the child who survived leukemia and is contending with seizures and headaches, I’m watching your story unfold and seeing how cancer has affected your school days, age-related milestones and more. I am amazed in witnessing your family’s resiliency in surviving first your mom’s cancer, then yours, and now double the ripple effects. I am praying and loving you through it, still.
“Some problems might not go away or might not show up until months or years after treatment. These problems are called late effects. Because more children with cancer now survive into adulthood, their long-term health and these late effects have become a focus of care and research,” according to the American Cancer Society. Change will be slow, given that only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer.
Still, I want to shout woohoo!! with every one of your cancerversaries. Another birthday; another graduation; another wedding; another grandchild; another make-a-wish come true! For I know, not all cancers are treatable, not all will hear “no evidence of disease” and not all will make the journey cancer free amid ripple effects. Someday, I hope to speak similar words about Alzheimer’s, as well as other impassable diseases.
Cancer free isn’t free … yet it is more often survivable and sometimes entirely preventable. Therein lies the good news of complementary and alternative medicine. The journey isn’t a matter of where the chips may fall. There are empowering decisions to be made. My introduction to such medical intuitiveness, drugless therapies, and holistic healing was via The Annie Appleseed Conference, where I finally met Dr. Christine Horner. We had previously communicated through email in the writing of my book, When Mom’s Cancer Doesn’t Go Away. To this day, Dr. Horner inspires me by her knowledge and fortitude to change the course of cancer. Take a listen, learn about the milestones, drink in some hope at her Radiant Health Show.
While we cannot always erase the ripple effects of cancer, we can always do more to ease the journey. I would appreciate hearing what has helped you during cancer treatment and beyond.