“The cancer won’t come back right?” “I’m completely cured now?” “I’m going to be alright then?” Every cancer patient needs a reassuring hug that says “Ofcourse ! Yes! Don’t you worry! I won’t let anything happen to you”
As an oncologist however I have to hold myself back and say it like I see it…attempt to predict what is likely, and present the truth ..or the best that I know of it.
Sometimes reality is promising “You had a very small and early tumor, I’d be surprised if it came back” Sometimes reality is harsh “Your tumor is smarter than us, it keeps coming back but we have a few options that will get us more time”
More often that not, reality is in between. A statistic like “Out of 100 patients with your kind of tumor and treatments..73 will be alive in 10 years” Some patients can appreciate that information, but numbers are still numbers. The same number can be read differently by eyes that see either hope or fear. Besides, someone may think “I’m either doing to be alive or I’m going to be dead..and if I’m dead I’m completely a 100% dead, aren’t I?” Well..I hear you.
Once you have been through the cancer journey, my hope is that you will find a place where you are neither “fearful” nor “reckless”. Where you don’t see ” all black” or “all white” but find a way to be “okay with grey” Where you are informed and aware and peace with what you know and believe. A place where hope is something you feel grounded in, not something you are constantly searching and struggling to find.
So here are some sincere answers to your difficult question.
- “Neither of us knows for sure whether it will come back or not.. we have all done everything in our ability to prevent it from coming back …lets give ourselves permission to sit back a while and trust that our efforts will pay off”
- ” If most women in your situation will not have a problem , then going forward I want you to believe you are in this group that is cured. I am also here for those that will find that they are not..and we will face it together again if we must”
- “The goal of getting through cancer treatments is to get you back to living your life.. you are there today. now lets see you live.. “
Yes, every now and then you will wonder whether you will be ok. Cancer support slogans will exhort you to “stay positive” “keep fighting” and drive you to believe that you win if you will be ok and stay ok. In my opinion thats a hurtful agenda during survivorship and makes it harder than it should be. The goal is to be ok today …and if you are, remind yourself of it.