What is Cancer Survivor Wellness?


My husband and I experienced a tragedy in 2005.  Our baby girl was stillborn. I do not enjoy walking back through those memories.  I still hear the ringing in my ears that boomed when the midwife said, "Your baby died."

There is nothing else to do with that lemon, so I get positive by remembering that I am a better Nurse Practitioner because of our daughter's un-life.  And we would not have our sweet son without having lost her because, well, circumstances would be different.

These sentiments are genuine but they do not justify the loss.

I work with a wise and generous Oncologist who describes loss as a hole that will never go away.  It might get smaller, its edges might soften, but it remains. When she says this, without exception, patients and families nod in agreement.

I picture their holes, some yawning, cragged.  Others are small and mysterious, the circumference brushed by spring grass and meadow flowers.

I picture my own, undermined by a dearth of memory.  It is rimmed with rubies.

People diagnosed with cancer suffer indescribable loss.  The mere diagnosis severs their security and normalcy, the hope of a peaceful future.  It is like the trauma of war. The fear of physical harm and death are a threat to mental health and make communication and planning difficult.

What if your cancer has a good prognosis, a good chance of cure?  You have treatment, surgery, and more treatment.  Then you're done, right?

No, because any cancer diagnosis can blow the top off a life, leaving a crater of paralyzing uncertainty.

But the paralysis subsides.  Cancer survivors are resilient, they have faith and hope.  They weave it together and throw courage nets over their holes and never look back.  It is something to see.

But how is it done?  What are the steps? How do cancer patients bring peace and vitality to their lives after cancer treatment?

Cancer survivor wellness is the acceptance of the space between who you were and who you are now.  It is the recognition that you have the power to move forward with compassion for yourself.  It is being nourished by rainbows and the wind in your hair.  It is a celebration.

I have five steps to get you there. 

You can't fail.

Your hole.

Your net.