Cancer Veteran or Cancer Survivor?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

For individuals facing cancer, the battle is a personal one, and whether one lives or dies, the experience is always traumatic. Mary Elizabeth Williams, a staff writer for Salon, has been sharing her own cancer story on the website over the past several months. Last month, after undergoing experimental trials for her metastatic Stage 4 cancer, her doctor told her that her tumors had disappeared. 

Mary Elizabeth is what the cancer community refers to as a survivor. But in her opinion, survivor does not quite define what she and many others feel like after treatment.

Guests:

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [5]

Carolyn Greene from Boca Raton, Florida

Thank you ! I have never related more to a talk or article on breast cancer than Ms. William's. I am a "veteran" having had my first diagnosis 17 years ago getting a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. Then 8 years later I got a second new unrelated diagnosis and had a double mastectomy and more chemo. Then after another 8 years I had a local recurrence near my implant. More surgery, chemo and radiation only to find raised spots on my abdomen a year later which were determined to contain breast cancer that had spread. This places me at stage 4. I am receiving hormonal treatment to try to keep the cancer from spreading further but don't know yet if it is working. I still feel fine and stay active but wake up every day wondering what my cancer is doing today. I resent the happy "Pink" celebrations and commercialization of "Breast Cancer October" and and misinformation that after five years you're cured. I'm lucky now to be living with this disease rather than having died of it but don't know how long that will be. One learns to just live with the unknowns of breast cancer as others must live with other dire diseases. As Ms. Williams states, it's always there which I hope it will be for a long time.

Feb. 25 2012 05:43 PM
Miriam from NJ

My first bout with breast cancer was when I was 28. Since then, I had two more tumors (new tumors, not recurrences). I have had three courses of chemotherapy, radiation, countless biopsies and screening tests. I am now 64. My last round with breast cancer was 10 years ago. Living with cancer is a bit like sitting under the sword of Damocles. And while the fear does recede over time, I will never stop looking over my shoulder. Despite this, I am grateful that I have lasted this long and have been able to raise my son (born after my first cancer episode, over 30 years ago). While there have been some tough times, on the whole I have enjoyed my life and hope to continue to do so for some time. To what can I credit my long-term survival? I had good medical care and have been conscientious about following protocols, but frankly, it's mostly a matter of luck.

Feb. 23 2012 11:02 AM
PATRICK from MIRAMAR, FL

TOP OF THE MORNOING CELESTE; HAPPY THURSDAY!!
I'M AN 11 1/2 YEAR SURVIVOR OF BASE OF TONGUE CANCER. HOWEVER, LAST YEAR THE OTHER SHOE DROPPED, AS THEY SAY, AND I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH A TUMOR AT THE ENTRANCE OF MY TRACHEA, WHICH WAS CAUSED BY THE RADIATION, SO I'M TOLD, THAT I HAD FOR THE BOT TUMOR. I'VE HAD A FEEDING TUBE SINCE MY FIRST SURGERY, AND NOW I AM A TRACHEOSTOMEE, AND SO FAR UNABLE TO SPEAK SINCE MY LAST SURGERY IN 6/11. I LIVE AN ACTIVE, HAVING AS MUCH FUN AS POSSIBLE,NEW NORMAL LIFE AND DON'T THINK ABOUT BEING A CANCER SURVIVOR MOST OF THE TIME. I DID STRUGGLE WITH WHETHER OR NOT TO SEE MYSELF AS A SURVIVOR, BUT I FINALLY ACCEPTED THE REALITY, AND HAD TO ADMIT THAT I HAD BEEN THRU A WAR AND THAT I AM IN FACT A SURVIVOR. ALL IN ALL, I'M JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE! BY THE WAY, I'VE ALWAYS LIVED A VERY HEALTHY, ANTIOXIDENT LIFE (E.G., RUNNING, WEIGHT LIFTING, SURFING, HEALTHY DIET, NO SMOKING, ETC). CANCER IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY DISEASE..............

Feb. 23 2012 10:22 AM
Betsy from New York

Cancer is random, complex and unpredictable. I am a 14 year breast cancer survivor. Based on my surgeon's notes, my oncologist said that she had gotten all the tumor. Nevertheless, I did low level chemotherapy. Theoretically, there is the possibility of a recurrence. I am often asked about cancer. I am frustrated that when I answer that one size does not fit all, that even with breast cancer there are hundreds of possibilities of outcome, treatment or whatever, my comments fall on deaf ears. Among those who have never had to face it, there are many weird fantasies about it. They are put there by the ignorant media and are very hard to penetrate with the facts.

Feb. 23 2012 09:48 AM
Amy Malaney from Farmington Hills, MI

Hi Celeste,
I am not sure if you realized after you left Detroit that I was diagnosed with psuedomyxoma perotonei a rare form of appendix cancer in Fall of 2009. I went through very extensive surgery and HIPEC which is a heated chemotherapy at the University of Pittsburg Medical Center. I just got my 2 year clear. As far as being a survivor, I find it such an unusual term to be attached to my name. I feel more like I took care of things researching and finding the best treatment out there and now I move on with my life just a little wiser about life and how we should live every day because we will not live forever. I was told after my surgery that I would be living feeling a new normal, which is what I am doing. I am not choosing to label myself, but just to make sure that my life matters. If you want to talk about it more, let me know. I would be happy to chat.

Amy

Feb. 23 2012 08:01 AM

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