We all know the big C- cancer. But there is a second C those of use diagnosed all want, the second C word is Cure. It seems like a word now not often used in the cancer community. Though 11 years cancer-free, I am still considered “long term remission”, still see an oncologist (thought only annually now). The “cure” word we want would mean we are forever done with cancer, don’t need testing or oncology appointments, that we can move on with our lives and not feel vulnerable anymore. But we don’t get that word now. We don’t get the “second C”. I thought of that as tonight I received an email from WebMD….don’t remember how I got on their mailing list, but the topic of today’s post was “The Big Question: Am I Cured?“.
I remember in my younger years, if someone survived cancer free for 5 years, they were considered “cured”. But some cancers recur many years later- my aunt had a breast cancer recurrence 17 years after her initial diagnosis. After 17 years of being cancer-free, her cancer came back. Some renal cancer patients have recurrences up to 20 years later. So now, the medical providers are afraid to use the word “cure”, though we so long to hear that word.
Cancer. We all fear it. When diagnosed, we all change our life perspectives and learn to live with uncertainty.
I’d have been grateful to only have breast cancer after being diagnosed with signet ring appendix cancer and learning of the survival stats. Funny, I’ve developed a menu of “good” and “bad” cancers. The best cancer to have in my book is basal cell skin cancer…almost never spreads, no chemo, remove it and you are done. A complete cure. I think thyroid cancer comes next. Surgery, no chemo, usually also a complete cure, though you have to take thyroid meds (which I do anyway). Prostate is also up there…sometimes without treatment it grows so slowly you’ll die of something else before it gets you. But me, I had a terminal diagnosis and an aggressive cancer and am cancer-free 11 years later. My sister-in-law, who got diagnosed with breast cancer, now three years later has an untreatable recurrence. Dan Fogelburg died of prostate cancer at age 57. I’ve always felt if I got diagnosed with breast cancer tomorrow it wouldn’t be a big deal, highly curable, a lot less surgery and chemo than I had. My daughter once told me, wouldn’t it be ironic if I died of breast cancer after surviving appendiceal, though?
But sometimes the “good” cancers have a bad outcome and the bad cancers have a good outcome. In my travels of the cancer world, I’ve met a long-term pancreatic cancer survivor, a long-term lung cancer survivor….both who had my same statistics.
Who knows…cancer is so fickle. There is no fairness.