Survivorship

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elizagain
elizagain Member Posts: 43
edited March 2014 in Breast Cancer #1
It occurs to me that all the recent articles about breast cancer seem to focus on the probablity that this disease will recur, and will most likely be the cause of death. This seems to be the opinion even if your disease was Stage 1 or even 2 with no lymph node involvement, etc. I find it a bit depressing. When I was first diagnosed, I didn't think about dying from this. I really thought I would be fine. Am I in denial? Is there really such a thing as an 80% or better cure rate for this, or am I just kidding myself? Am I just in remission? Am I the only person who feels this way?

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  • cabbott
    cabbott Member Posts: 1,039 Member
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    It was really uplifting to read some research earlier this year that indicated that they are now keeping, get this, TWENTY year survival statistics on breast cancer survivors. Those of us who are caught early and have a slow-growing cancers seem to be surviving longer than ever and the newer drugs like tamoxifen and exemestane, not to mention the targetted chemos are showing results. However, others of us have very aggressive forms of cancer than may not be stopped with the current drugs and surgeries. While a reoccurance can happen years after diagnosis, the more aggressive cancers frequently reoccur within the first two years. That's why we go for followup so often the first two years. Even if you get a reoccurance, it is not a time for giving up. I know some folks that have been in stage 4 cancer for over twenty years. They go to the best doctors they can and do whatever it takes to get through each crisis, but they are still here and raising families in spite of cancer. Those long term survivors tell me that cancer should be thought of as a chronic disease like diabetes rather than as a death sentance. We may or may not be cured, but that doesn't mean we are dying either. There may or may not be some cancer cells floating around in our blood or lymph system, but until they develop the ability to set down roots and set up house somewhere, that's not a problem. And once they do become a problem, it is still treatable. Finally, every year we live brings us even closer to better treatments and maybe even someday, a cure.
  • OregonSeaStar
    OregonSeaStar Member Posts: 41
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    cabbott said:

    It was really uplifting to read some research earlier this year that indicated that they are now keeping, get this, TWENTY year survival statistics on breast cancer survivors. Those of us who are caught early and have a slow-growing cancers seem to be surviving longer than ever and the newer drugs like tamoxifen and exemestane, not to mention the targetted chemos are showing results. However, others of us have very aggressive forms of cancer than may not be stopped with the current drugs and surgeries. While a reoccurance can happen years after diagnosis, the more aggressive cancers frequently reoccur within the first two years. That's why we go for followup so often the first two years. Even if you get a reoccurance, it is not a time for giving up. I know some folks that have been in stage 4 cancer for over twenty years. They go to the best doctors they can and do whatever it takes to get through each crisis, but they are still here and raising families in spite of cancer. Those long term survivors tell me that cancer should be thought of as a chronic disease like diabetes rather than as a death sentance. We may or may not be cured, but that doesn't mean we are dying either. There may or may not be some cancer cells floating around in our blood or lymph system, but until they develop the ability to set down roots and set up house somewhere, that's not a problem. And once they do become a problem, it is still treatable. Finally, every year we live brings us even closer to better treatments and maybe even someday, a cure.

    Cabbott, thank you for your reply to Elizagain! Its positive, truthful, and worth reading over and over. I, too, easily get depressed over some of the things constantly bombarding us about this cancer . . . . and the probabilities of reoccurances, metastises, etc. The fight sometimes seem so long, so difficult, so painful. The good news - the fact that more and more of us are living WELL for longer and longer periods - sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and in our own fears.

    I'm printing out your answer and sticking it on my fridge to remind myself every day that there IS hope, that we CAN live longer, healthier lives, and that it IS worth it to keep fighting.
    -shelley
  • LesleyH
    LesleyH Member Posts: 370
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    Most breast cancer survivors do not die from breast cancer. That is true. The reason that we live with the common fear of recurrence is that it is so random. Although your chances are higher with larger tumors and lymph node involvement, not every recurrence does involve that. Many aggressive breast cancers are killed by chemo. Many less aggressive cancers are not killed by chemo. At this point in time, we cannot talk about being cured of cancer because there is no end point at which it will not recur. It can recur decades later. I do think we have to think of ourselves as in remission. For me, life will never be the same again. I watch what I eat and make sure I exercise daily. I am very aware of each ache and pain. This is my new normal. I think it is dangerous to assume you are cured and can forget about follow up treatment. When women decide that, they stop taking their hormone treatments and disaster strikes.

    Hugs.

    Lesley
  • KathiM
    KathiM Member Posts: 8,028 Member
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    I believe that there is a link between cancer and a compromised immune system (there are docs that are researching this, too). Reflect on when many people are dx'ed with the beast....after a major point in their life....divorce, death of a loved one, moving, starting a new job....even the good stress stuff. Moral? There is no such thing as 'good' stress....

    Hugs, Kathi
  • 24242
    24242 Member Posts: 1,398
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    KathiM said:

    I believe that there is a link between cancer and a compromised immune system (there are docs that are researching this, too). Reflect on when many people are dx'ed with the beast....after a major point in their life....divorce, death of a loved one, moving, starting a new job....even the good stress stuff. Moral? There is no such thing as 'good' stress....

    Hugs, Kathi

    I am beginning to think in new terms of my survivorship and heard recently that it is more like THRIVERship. I may not have returned to the life I once new and that is a good thing since cancer was my reward. Learning to live in the now and this moment has been the simplisity I have been given.
    I too was led to believe the Stress was killing me but since learned that it was by not finding the skills to cope that was the real killer. Just living and accepting what was going on wasn't good enough. Cancer brought clearity like I have never felt before.
    I soon learned with the proper tools to cope stress was just another word in a long list of things to work through in this evolution of Tara.
    Stress doesn't have to be the thing that affects us the most instead it is just another part of this life as I know it.
    Thriving in this life of mine has been a true blessing when little hope of that was ever given.
    Miracles come in many forms.
    Tara
  • KathiM
    KathiM Member Posts: 8,028 Member
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    24242 said:

    I am beginning to think in new terms of my survivorship and heard recently that it is more like THRIVERship. I may not have returned to the life I once new and that is a good thing since cancer was my reward. Learning to live in the now and this moment has been the simplisity I have been given.
    I too was led to believe the Stress was killing me but since learned that it was by not finding the skills to cope that was the real killer. Just living and accepting what was going on wasn't good enough. Cancer brought clearity like I have never felt before.
    I soon learned with the proper tools to cope stress was just another word in a long list of things to work through in this evolution of Tara.
    Stress doesn't have to be the thing that affects us the most instead it is just another part of this life as I know it.
    Thriving in this life of mine has been a true blessing when little hope of that was ever given.
    Miracles come in many forms.
    Tara

    Tara

    Said so well! I LOVE the thrivership....

    Hugs, Kathi
  • twocollies
    twocollies Member Posts: 1
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    I too, feel depressed post treatment for breast cancer. In Nov. 2005, I had a bilateral mastectomy after an MRI ordered by my surgeon found cancer on the left breast. Originally I was diagnosed with ca on the rt. I had chemo and was about to start radiation when they found the second cancer. This second diagnosis threw me into depression. I take Zoloft, with some relief. My greatest fears occur the week before my oncologist visit, after the lab work. I`m convinced of reoccurance. I try to use coping skills but am usually unsuccessful. My family and friends have been very supportive. My husband was wonderful through everything but I know they don`t want to hear all my fears. They have a need to put everything behind them and assume all is well. Unless you have had cancer, you can`t understand the fear. Everytime I have an ache or pain, the first thing I think is reoccurance.
  • cabbott
    cabbott Member Posts: 1,039 Member
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    I too, feel depressed post treatment for breast cancer. In Nov. 2005, I had a bilateral mastectomy after an MRI ordered by my surgeon found cancer on the left breast. Originally I was diagnosed with ca on the rt. I had chemo and was about to start radiation when they found the second cancer. This second diagnosis threw me into depression. I take Zoloft, with some relief. My greatest fears occur the week before my oncologist visit, after the lab work. I`m convinced of reoccurance. I try to use coping skills but am usually unsuccessful. My family and friends have been very supportive. My husband was wonderful through everything but I know they don`t want to hear all my fears. They have a need to put everything behind them and assume all is well. Unless you have had cancer, you can`t understand the fear. Everytime I have an ache or pain, the first thing I think is reoccurance.

    It is hard for someone who has not had a cancer diagnosis to relate to the emotional trauma that a cancer diagnosis involves. I tried to explain to my doctor that I thought I might be going through Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and he kind of dismissed it as what everyone experiences with cancer to one degree or another. Well, a few months later I began to read research (not by him!) on how prevalent Post-traumatic stress syndrome was among cancer survivors, along with depression. The researchers seemed surprised, but I'm not. I work as a counselor with kids and I know that intense scary events can burn there way into a part of our brain and cause us great pain. It's a part of our ancient brain makeup, not a matter of weakness. The way the fears come back with such intensity whenever something in the environment (or the calendar) reminds us of the original situation might have had a survival advantage in caveman days, but it can make a person miserable when they are trying to lead a normal life after cancer diagnosis and treatment. The good thing is that there is treatment for this. Lots and lots of talking helps move the memory to a place in the brain where we control it instead of it controlling us. Art therapy, journaling, support groups and such can help a person get control of the painful event. And meds also can be of great relief when the depression makes every minute of our life as hard as wading through molasses. My doctor was right that this is common, but that is no reason to just live with it.
  • Unknown
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    Thrivership! I love it!! I am a six year cancer survivor/thriver. I was diagnosed(2000) with an agressive cancer which had spread to my lymph nodes. I underwent lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation only to have a recurrence 6 months out(2001). Next came bilateral mastectomy and more chemo. I am now 6 years out and enjoying every day. I rarely read cancer news because it only awakens old fears. I do periodically log on to web sites because I believe nothing is more encouraging to newly diagnosed patients than tales from survivors. Keep on loving and living!