Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never thought of myself as a cancer “survivor.” Well, how is that possible? In 1971, just two years after getting married, my internist found a suspicious lump near my Adam’s apple. It was nothing I could see or feel, but two weeks later I was in the hospital having my thyroid removed. “Contained malignancy” were the words after the pathologist’s report came back. To this day I don’t ever remember anyone using the word “cancer.” (Maybe it’s just me) I only focused on the word “contained” and went about my business building a life with my wife Merrily. Oh there were checkups and radioactive iodine treatments to make sure there were no lingering cancer cells from my “malignant” thyroid. Certainly no pain or discomfort involved. Five years went by and I continued to get cancer free reports at my yearly physicals. And so began my new life without a thyroid gland and with daily doses of thyroid medication. Life is good.
Fast forward 39 years to 2010. Early stages of prostate cancer (now, there’s that word), started me on a journey to find the right course of treatment. After learning as much as I could about this disease, and the treatment options available, my wife and I started interviewing doctors for the next steps ahead. The surgeon we selected wanted to pin point the location of the cancer and ordered a needle biopsy. He also wanted to make sure there were no other areas of cancer involvement so he also ordered a CT scan. Now here’s where it gets interesting. The results of the CT scan showed a growth on my right kidney that my surgeon knew was cancerous. (Now I’m getting used to hearing the “C” word.)
In a span of three months I went through two major surgeries, first to remove the tumor on the kidney (kidney saved), and then to remove my prostate. I was fortunate that no radiation or chemo was necessary. I’m now in my third year post-op and feeling great.
So what’s this lingering feeling I have about not considering myself a cancer survivor? Sure, I “survived” all three of my cancer surgeries, but that’s still not it. Maybe the fact that I did not have to suffer through the side effects of chemo-therapy or radiation put me into this “survivor-denial” mentality. Whatever reason I can come up with to help me rationalize these feelings, one thing is quite clear, those who endured weeks and months of chemo or radiation are the true “survivors.” Maybe it’s just me.