25 Years Cancer Free, But Then…

I was sorry to hear that Olivia Newton John, whom I’ve always loved (and even met at the opening of a clothing store she used to own called Koala Blue… I made my parents take me specifically so I could meet her!), has had a recurrence of the breast cancer she had 25 years ago, with bone mets.

I’m sharing this article because it’s informative and thought-provoking. It’s come up several times for me that I don’t really have a “five-year date” and although I seem to be “cancer-free”, I’ve never heard those words.

Sometimes I feel like people think I’m being negative, or dramatic when I say that. I’m not, I’m just being honest.

I certainly try to stay positive, live my life the best I can (and fully intend for it to get better and better). Undoubtedly, the further I get from cancer and treatment the easier that will be to do physically and emotionally… However, I’m well aware that the kind of cancer I had can come back, and can come back anytime and anywhere. This article explains that better than I ever could! Sometimes it’s a bit hard to live with, this idea that my cancer could come back. I’ve never really felt convinced that it’s not going to come back. As a young cancer survivor, I expect that I have a lot of years of life left, but I’ve never really believed I’m going to get to the end of them cancer free. I’m learning how to cope with that fear though. I remind myself that I’m healthy now, and I owe it to myself and my family to enjoy my life as much as I can.

Nobody ever knows what’s around the corner anyway. That is no more true for me than anybody else. But my experience has made me more aware of it.

I really try to do my best to have a good life, and be a good person, with every day. I remind myself how much cancer research is changing all the time. Even the treatments I’ve had now are not the treatments I would’ve had if I’d been diagnosed 5 years ago. That means that with a risk of recurrence there is more hope for longer survival times.  If the cancer does come back, especially a few (or many) years down the line, there will probably be more and more treatment options and better and better prognoses. A lot of people complain about all the money that is put towards breast-cancer; that there are so many other kinds of cancer and other illnesses. I don’t deny that. It’s why I will not be doing the run for the cure again this year. I felt very uncomfortable doing something that raises funds for only one kind of cancer when there are so many out there. And I do continue to fundraise and support a lot of other causes even after having breast cancer myself! However, breast cancer does remain the most common cancer among Canadian women and the 2nd leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian women. Breast cancer, especially metastatic cancer, still needs MORE.

Even though reading about Newton John’s recurrence was a bit scary for me, I reminded myself that she’s had 25 YEARS without cancer.

That’s a long time!

If I get that long then that will be a good thing; it means I will get to see my children grow up and possibly get married and have children, and that I will finish my career and retire, before I have to deal with cancer again. Still, I’m hoping to soon hear that Olivia Newton John is stable and back to performing!

And, with that, I feel compelled to emphasize: Ladies (and men) please be aware of your bodies! Go to the doctor if you notice any concerning changes, and try to live a healthy lifestyle that minimizes risk! It’s not fool-proof, but – for now – it’s the best we can do.   – Jill

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Rethink Remembers: Michelle Riccio
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Phone: 416 220 0700
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