receiving the news of a diagnosis of cancer, one is given treatment choices and are urged to make significant treatment decisions, immediately. I have personally known multiple individuals who were given the choice of which treatment to receive first: chemo or surgery. The implications of such a decision are significant, yet as a newly diagnosed patient, such a choice is often decided by when it would be convenient to be sick for 3-6 months. In the moments after diagnosis, most of us have no idea what type of questions to ask to help make such choices, and usually, no one is there to help guide us. Furthermore, studies show that for the newly diagnosed, the fear that fills the mind minimizes decision-making skills and limits one’s ability to process information around such stressful decisions.
But this example shows how those impacted by cancer design their own treatment choices, even within minutes of a new diagnosis. Once an individual is diagnosed with cancer and moves beyond the initial shock, s/he will soon learn of a plethora of treatment paths available. By talking with other individuals impacted by cancer or researching treatment plans from physicians around the world, an individual impacted by cancer can soon become empowered with a variety of treatment paths available. Cancer treatment is a dynamic process, a two-way discussion, and there is no expectation of quiet submission.
Next, look at the term ‘cancer survivor’ and it’s implications for a person impacted by cancer today. Until a cure/vaccine is the typical treatment for every individual impacted by cancer, there is a large population of people who question the label ‘cancer survivor.’ Today, many cancer treatments simply postpone cancer’s impact on lives. In some situations, treatments themselves may kill the current threat of cancer in a body but will, in fact, create cancer over the following 10-15 years. Other treatments may simply push cancer back, to a level where it can no longer be detected, only to be found at a later date. Today’s label of ‘cancer survivor’ is misleading and inaccurate. Those impacted by cancer long for the day when every individual who receives a cancer treatment will be called a ‘true survivor,’ not simply living for a 5-year benchmark but living long and full lives without fear of cancer’s return.