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Putting Cancer in Its Place

Elissa Bantug
Elissa Bantug

In a conversation with a patient recently, she said to me, “I am a mother and a wife, but when I think of what describes me most, it is that I am a cancer survivor.  Having had cancer is the first thing I think about when I get up in the morning, the last thing I think about before going to bed, and is something that I am reminded of all throughout my day.”

This statement resonated with me because even though I do hear similar statements from patients somewhat frequently, it always astounds me how all-consuming cancer still can be after treatment is over.  Although this woman is several years post treatment, she still thinks about cancer every day.

Similarly, I remember being so scared when my oncologist said he was not going to see me on a regular basis anymore.  There was no warning and no preparation.  Like the band-aid had just been ripped off fast, rather than gradually removing it.  The appointments that I originally loathed, I grew to depend on.  At some point in my treatment without me even being conscious about it, those appointments became a security blanket for me.

From my experience, this generally gets easier with time.  Life goes on and those same stressors of work and family life that affected you before cancer, slowly start taking center stage again.  As we move further from treatment, having cancer is not the singular most important piece about our self identity anymore.  Not to say that it is not something that most patients who have been out of treatment for awhile do not think about occasionally.  For me, time allowed me to put cancer back in its place.  It no longer dictates every avenue of my life as it did while I was in treatment and the years following care.  Cancer has earned a piece of me just as being a wife, daughter, and mother have.

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