I come into the realm of survivorship in a curious place: An expert in the lived experience of my illness, but not yet an expert in the geography of long term survivorship. You and me readers, we figured out the first five years together, and now we are cartographers on a more grave mission, to chart the course from years six through ten.
“No evidence of recurrent disease” may soothe the thinking brain, but what cancer patients are feeling cannot be healed with words on a page, but only through comfort and safety for our bodies.
Patients are told not to throw in the towel, don’t lose hope, hold out for the miracle, but when we frame cancer survivorship by a relentless battle, we award the wrong priorities. Instead we should celebrate reconciling the plans that we had for our lives with the reality that we may need to adjust our goals. Maybe the miracle is not the life saving treatment breakthrough, but instead, it is the breakthrough of fresh perspective that asks honestly, “How would I like the completion of my life to look?” And not, “What I can possibly do to extend it?”
As you move forward, navigating these uncertain times of public health crisis, you may consider these lessons that I’ve practiced these four years: Align your decisions to your desired quality of life today. Live presently and familiarize yourself with those things that you fear. Consider healing, wellbeing, wholeness, and personal growth that may come through experiencing illness. And extend charity to others while respecting their beliefs.
A parent, living with cancer, and the Hobbesian natural state.