Above all, let me be clear about my thoughts on cancer treatment. I owe my life to it.
I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for the treatment I had at the age of 15 for Hodgkin’s Disease, a cancer of the lymph glands. Back in March of 1968, I completed a series of Cobalt Radiation treatments just before my 16th birthday. At the time there were only three Cobalt machines in the country, and it was still somewhat experimental, but it was my best bet, according to the doctors. They were right. The survival rate for Hodgkin’s back then was about 40% for a 5 year projection, if I made it past the first year without recurrence. Otherwise, the odds went down, fast. Obviously, I made it well past the year, and the 5 year remission goals. Back then they talked of “remission” and made it clear that the cure word was not a part of the vocabulary. It is now. Cures happen. Cancer is still scary, but if it’s caught early, your chances are much better now than they were back then.
I am among the first generation of cancer “survivors” who have lived this long. March of 2012 will mark 44 years cancer free. I’m one of the fortunate ones, and I know this.
I originally said that the purpose of this blog isn’t to tell my story, but rather to create an awareness of the different long term and “late effects” that can show up many years after cancer treatment. Well, I’ve discovered something. I cannot do this blog if I don’t talk about myself. Surviving cancer is not just a concept to discuss from a distance, it’s very personal. I find that I cannot separate the me out of this. I cannot just post articles and guide readers to sites with helpful links. So I will be posting about myself, as well as, hopefully, giving you something to think about.
In my case, the “late effects” are from Radiation treatment, so that is what I am most familiar with, but many people who had chemo also are showing late effects years after the main battle is past.
Quite a few of the oldest of long term survivors did have radiation treatments, because Hodgkin’s was one of the first cancers to be considered as curable, and in most cases, Radiation was and still is part of the treatment. They’ve learned a lot since then, including better ways to shield the body, more precise targeting of lesions, etc – so I don’t want anyone to misunderstand, or think that if they have cancer, their treatments will automatically cause problems in later years. But do be informed, and ask your doctor what he knows about long term effects.
This blog is for those of you who have fought and won against cancer, whether once or several times, and are now wondering why you don’t feel like you think you should feel. I hope to provide you with resources to help you understand the changes in your body, but I also hope that, bx sharing my story, it will help you to understand that you are not alone, and no, you are not a hypochondriac even if your doctors can’t explain the causes of your symptoms. Radiation and chemo can keep you alive, can even cure your cancer. But sometimes they come at a cost, especially later in life.
Is it worth the cost? Most definitely.
However, knowing that doesn’t make it easier to live with a body that seems to be deteriorating faster than is age-appropriate. Appreciation of these extra years doesn’t mean you have to keep quiet and not mention if you’re nor feeling good. And while the physical and health issues are important, there are also psychological and emotional adjustments that may come into play. It’s not easy to get older, everyone has adjustments to make, even very healthy people still slow down and have to make adjustments in their life. But for those of us who have fought and won the battle against cancer, those adjustments may be a lot bigger than we expected. And some of the late effects from those life saving treatments cannot be reversed.
In many cases, the only choice we have is to adapt.
It isn’t easy. It may take an emotional or psychological change before you are ready to accept the changes. But it can be done, and I hope to help you along the way, in whatever way I can.
Life Adapted is about learning to let go of our preconceptions about what our life is supposed to be. It is about learning to live and love our life as it is, through understanding, acceptance, and adaptation.
Please be patient with me. It may take time for me to get this blog up and running like I want to – and I have slowed down these past few years, slowed down a lot. My mind is still young, but my body can’t keep up with all I want to do and learn. Plus, as much as I want to invest in helping others, I still must take time to play and enjoy some of the fun things in life. If you want to know what, just check out my other blogs. I don’t want to define myself by my limitations, and while this blog is less about limitations than it is about how to adapt to them, I still can’t allow it to be my main focus in life. I learned a long time ago that life is meant to be lived, by whatever means, and sometimes you just have to take time to have fun.
I’ll be back, and post when I am up to it. Meanwhile, remember what you learned from back before you knew you were cured –
Life is precious. Enjoy it.