Tuesday 18 February 2014

When Do I Become a Cancer Survivor?

By DebiLyn Smith www.debilynsmith.com Author of Running From Cancer: a tilted memoir.

A breast cancer "treatment survivor" since May 2011, DebiLyn strives to reduce the 50% of life-style induced cancer patients. "You can run, but you can't hide," she says.

What Happens After Cancer Treatment?

When does one begin to say they are a breast cancer survivor? I have finished the treatments. The medical profession has cut, poisoned and nuked the part of me that contained the psychotically rapid dividing cells known as cancer. I did survive that, with some scary moments of wondering involved. Or do I have to wait until the recommended five years of drug therapy is finished to declare "I made it!" If, that is, I do make it?

I don't want to be ridiculed at a cancer march or a run for the cure as they applaud the champions who beat this disease when I have yet to find out if indeed we did "get it all" or if there is some little piece that survived, starting to multiply someplace else as we speak. It's a very real concern. Worse than the nightmare about going to Sunday school without my underwear on.  I don't know what to trust anymore. My body let me down once. Will it do it again?

They say that one third of women with hormone dependent tumors (like mine) will have a recurrence. Better than half of those five years or more after surgery. Because I opted for the adjunct therapy (the chemo and radiation) combined with surgery my chance of the cancer coming back goes down. I think I'm at a 3-5% chance. It's still enough to make you worry. I've beaten lower odds before in the luck-less life lottery.

Beginning Life-Long Learning to Stay Healthy

Saying you're a survivor implies the war is over but for me, the battle has just begun. This is going to be a life-long assault of learning and doing what I can to survive not just now, but for as many years as I can squeak out of this body.

So despite everything that's been done, I'm determined to keep the numbers on my side. It's a betting game with no guarantees and you must do what you can to help. Swallow large fish oil and Green Tea capsules (anti-oxidants), stuff in the blueberries by the handful, drink the green spirulina/algae with your pinched, drag your butt to the swimming pool, fill those lungs with good clean fresh air, drink water not wine and whatever you do... don't sweat the small stuff.

Possibly when I'm on my  last breath, when I have lived a much longer life, I will finally declare myself a breast cancer survivor. Until then... Game On!

To find a Cancer Rehab Canada near you, visit the list of British ColumbiaSaskatchewanOntario, or Nova Scotia locations.


  1. As of Tuesday I have been given a clean bill of health! So it's time to get back into shape,

    I'm buying a gym membership today.

  2. Congrats on the good news, Judy! Remember to shape up the inside as well as the outside. Have healthy food in your home ready for when you are hungry. A great selection of fresh fruit and vegis, nuts and whole grains, Vitamin D supplements and lots of good water! Get that Game On, All-the-way, Girl Friend!

  3. Thanks for the great comment by Suzan St Maur who believes one is a survivor from the day of diagnosis. Although she is absolutely correct and backed by thousands, my comments stemmed from a constant worry of letting myself sit back and say, "whew...that was close." I am hoping to inspire other's to try and ensure they don't go down that road again.I agree that living with the threat of a recurrence is do-able. For me, it instills the motivation to stand up to cancer and prevent its growth instead of running from it. We all have room to tighten our anti-cancer belts a bit more. Especially survivors and doubting Debi's who plan on managing this for a very long time. Hats off to your positive spirit, Suzan!