Facing the Diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis - no matter what kind of cancer it is - makes you feel like you've been left dangling off the cliff of life. Days of testing, bone scans, CT scans, MRIs, x-rays, and blood tests are followed by days of growing fear while you wait for the final answer. Then, the solemn pronouncement that you have cancer and with it the feeling that life will never be the same again. And not only your life - but also the lives of everyone around you.
No one disputes the fact that your life will be changed by your diagnosis. But try not to panic. This is NOT the end of the world. This is not the end of your life. This is the moment when you need to take control and call up your inner will to live and your determination to learn all you can about what is happening to you.
There is so much going on in every kind of cancer treatment that you have every reason to feel positive about the possibility of being cured. We have seen dozens of patients who made dramatic recoveries, when ten years ago they would have had no hope for living another year. We know people who just one year ago would have died were it not for the fact that they received the very newest treatments. We know many who have had chronic cases of cancer, who have been treated, lived a few disease-free years, and then discovered that the cancer returned. They have been treated again. They've gone back into patient mode, gone through another round of treatments, and recovered again. Each time they've survived, they've gained a bit more time to test out newer treatments with fewer side effects and better effectiveness. The bottom line is: cancer isn't what it used to be.
We are extremely optimistic about the treatments that continue to come to the marketplace or are on the near horizon. We have researched every resource to give you as much information as possible on the many different kinds of treatments available as well as the very newest thinking and experiments that are presently being tested.
Cancer is a chronic disease with many possibilities for cure. Position yourself to take advantage of every possibility for being one of those who is cured. And always remember, people have survived every type of cancer, at every stage.
What happens now?
This is the moment when you have the greatest number of choices concerning the kind of treatment best for you and you are faced with making decisions about how you will proceed. Each decision may make a critical difference in the outcome. The wrong choices close the doors to other options. In order to make informed decisions, you need information, the kind of information that makes it possible for you to seek out the right doctor and hospital as well as sufficient information to make it possible for you to ask the right questions.
You need to put the whole emotional background of having cancer into perspective before you can deal intelligently with the diagnosis of cancer. For many people, the cancer word - the big C - still carries with it the old fears and myths, left over from the days when cancer was incurable. Today, with nearly nine million people alive with a history of cancer, you need to be aware that in the vast majority of cases, cancer is considered and treated as a "chronic" illness that can be managed for many years with proper treatment.
Cancer is a major illness but it is not necessarily fatal, contrary to what many people still believe.
You can have cancer and continue to enjoy life.
There's no question that the diagnosis of cancer is one of the low points in life. The real news is that many people are being cured. For some types of cancer, nine out of ten people diagnosed can be considered cured. Many others will live a very long time before dying of cancer. There is hope for every patient. Some are cured at once, by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Some are never cured, but their disease is controlled so they can expect to live for many, many years. Admittedly, there are some types of cancer where treatments are only able to prolong life for a few months, but those cases are in the minority.
It is important for you to know at the outset what category your type of cancer is so that you will not be worrying unnecessarily and so that you will be dealing with reality when you make decisions about your treatments and how you will be living your life. Specifically, you need to know the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, whether it has spread to any other site, and if there are tumor markers that are used to track your cancer. You need full information to make certain that you will be getting the very best possible treatment for your cancer as well as for your coping style, personality, and living style.
The best place to begin in collecting information, of course, is with your doctor. But, you need to search out further information on your own if you plan to be an involved consumer. Our favorite first information stop is the National Cancer Institute (NCI), where ongoing research puts cutting-edge information at your fingertips through its Cancer Information Service telephone line, 1 -800-4-CANCER, and Web site (www.cancer.gov). Our favorite search engine is Google, where you can put in a few words and get access to a wealth of information. If you are looking for community-oriented information, try the American Cancer Society, 1-800-ACS-2345, and its Web site (www.cancer.org). See Chapter 2, Searching for Answers on the Web, as well as information at the end of each chapter on specific cancers for additional Internet sources ...