Working in a medical oncology practice and having had friends who’ve had cancer and lost family members to it, I could say a lot. But I don’t think I could ever say it as gracefully and truthfully as this. “Life after cancer” is a phrase mostly touted by people who haven’t had the disease. People who have mostly talk about life “with” cancer, even years after it has been “cured”. A big part of this seems to be the profound ways it changes most people. They are changes that last forever – not just while the person is sick from chemotherapy or recovering from a surgery. The other is way is that what most people understand as “cured” with cancer can more or less just be a waiting game for it to recur. It could return in the same breast, but in the lymph nodes. Lung cancer could appear in the bones. It’s a game of statistics. It’s roulette in real life. Coming close to my 4th year working at the cancer center, I’m only just realizing the rate that this happens as people who stopped treatment and went on 3, 6 or even 12 month monitoring visits are suddenly back in the office frequently to get labs, see the doctor, and start new chemotherapies – to start the battle all over again. For everyone out there – never had cancer, cancer-free, or newly diagnosed – there really is no “life after cancer” because we all have to live with the threat of it in some way every day. The question is, how will you live with it?

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