Tag Archives: survivor

Surrendered Medals?


My goal with this blog was to journal my journey and try to keep my posts short and readable. This one will be a bit longer and I apologize. My friend John shared this link a few days ago. At first it reminded me of when the astronomers declared Pluto was no longer a planet. Definitions and rules aren’t supposed to change, right? The scientists are redefining what constitutes a cancer as a whole which is good but it’s still a very confusing and scary topic for nearly anyone. Check it out.

What if what you survived wasn’t cancer?
Here’s a snippet:

For decades, the reigning theory has been that the earlier a cancer is spotted and treated, the less likely it is to be lethal, because it won’t have time to grow and spread. Yet this theory infers causality from correlation. It implicitly assumes that cancer is cancer is cancer, even though we now know that even in the same part of the body, cancer is many different diseases — some aggressive, some not. Perhaps people survive early-stage cancers not because they’re treated in time, but because their disease never would have become life-threatening at all.

This isn’t just logical nit-picking. Thanks to widespread screening, the number of early-stage cancers identified has skyrocketed. In many instances — including types of breast, prostate, thyroid and lung cancers — more early diagnoses haven’t led to proportionate decreases in mortality. (New drugs, not early detection, account for at least two-thirds of the reduction in breast-cancer mortality.) The cancers the tests pick up aren’t necessarily life-threatening. They’re just really common. So more sensitive tests and more frequent screening mean more cancer, more cancer treatment and more cancer survivors.

“We’ll all be cancer survivors if we keep going at the rate that we’re going,” says Peter Carroll, the chairman of the department of urology at the University of California at San Francisco and a specialist in prostate cancer.

Distracting Doctors

In a well-intended effort to save lives, the emphasis on early detection is essentially looking under the lamp post: Putting many patients who don’t have life-threatening diseases through traumatic treatments while distracting doctors from the bigger challenge of developing ways to identify and treat the really dangerous fast-growing cancers.

“Physicians, patients, and the general public must recognize that overdiagnosis is common and occurs more frequently with cancer screening,” argues a recent JAMA article by the oncologists Laura J. Esserman (a surgeon and breast-cancer specialist), Ian M. Thompson Jr. (a urologist) and Brian Reid (a specialist in esophageal cancer). They argue for limiting the term “cancer” to conditions likely to be life-threatening if left untreated.

That’s going to be a tough change for a lot of people to swallow. For patients and the rest of the public, getting tested offers a sense of control, encouraging an almost superstitious belief that frequent screening will ward off death. (A few years ago, when the actress Christina Applegate was making the talk-show rounds urging young women to get breast MRIs, my own oncologist told me he was getting calls from women who thought the tests would not merely detect but prevent breast cancer.)
Early detection of non-life-threatening cancers also produces a steady supply of “cancer survivors,” who work to support cancer charities and make their efforts look successful. There’s an entire industry devoted to celebrating “breast cancer survivors” in particular, and many women are heavily invested in that identity. It offers a heroic honorific as a reward for enduring horrible treatments. A term originally coined to remind cancer patients that their disease need not be fatal has become a badge of personal achievement.

The author makes some good points; especially the survival being over the treatment vs the disease itself. Traditional cancer therapy modalities are still barbaric.  I have an aggressive form (chromosome 17p deletion) of a generally non aggressive blood cancer. I have to admit that I struggle with even calling what I have (CLL) a cancer as while it can be very fatal, it generally doesn’t undergo metastasis in the traditional sense of most cancers.

Regardless of how anyone ultimately reclassifies the disease, cancer survivors who endure any of chemo/radiation/surgical body part removal are true heroes to me.

The Importance of Community as a Cancer Patient

It has been almost exactly a week to the hour since I pulled up into the parking lot as a Camp Bluebird newbie. Since my diagnosis over two years ago, I’d not checked out any peer support beyond a few phone calls from LLS First Connection program. One of those callers, Nancy told me about Camp Bluebird and told me I really should come. I missed my first opportunity but did go to the recent fall 2013 gathering. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s hard to explain but being near and having fun with so many others who are also fighting against and winning against cancer was the ultimate empower-er. That’s all of us above; I’m in the back row almost all the way to the left in the picture. About half are cancer survivors. The other half are volunteers. I love these people for who they are and what they’re doing.

Lesson learned. Surviving cancer with your sanity isn’t a game for lone rangers.

Life Impacted

Bluebird House I just spent a full weekend with about 50 cancer survivors and about that many more volunteers via a non-profit program called Camp Bluebird.  We attended a camp style retreat at a massive 320 acre campground on the shores of J. Percy Priest Lake in Nashville. I truly had no idea what to expect before getting there 2 days ago and I could probably write volumes about the things we did, the people I met and shared with; the environment was so loving, healing and warm. I had a wonderful time and my extended family unexpectedly grew much larger this weekend.
I’m still not sure who Mufasa is but he’s watching! IMG_20131027_115034
Near the end of our time together, we honored and remembered the fallen with a massive balloon release. Teary eyes were not in short supply. 20131027_081325

I can’t wait for the Spring 2014 camp in April.

Cancer MixTape vol.2

I started this song compilation mixtape idea on here without thinking of a second volume a few weeks ago. There are so many more good breakup songs (that I’d love to personally dedicate to cancer) out there. Please help me fill this out people via comments.

  1. I will survive (Cake / Gloria Gaynor)
  2. Hit the road Jack (Ray Charles)
  3. Goodbye to you (Scandal)
  4. I want a new drug (Huey Lewis)
  5. Forget You (CeeLo Green)
  6. Sorry seems to be the hardest word (Elton John)
  7. We are never, ever, ever getting back together (Taylor Swift)
  8. ____
  9. ____
  10. ____
  11. ____
  12. ____

Help me finish this with some of your own. Old or new, I want some good songs or song titles that would tell cancer just where to get off.