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"Who is a Cancer Survivor?"


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From Dr. Andrew Weil's Daily Newsletter:

http://www.drweil.com/app/cda/drw_cda.h ... nId=326634

Today's Question

Who Is a Cancer Survivor?

I recently was diagnosed with cancer, and I’m concerned that the word “survivor” seems to refer only to those who are in remission. I believe I am surviving cancer on a daily basis. What are your thoughts on this survivorship issue, and what kinds of integrative therapies are available to me during treatment?

-- Blanche

Today's Answer

(Published 06/04/2004)

What better time to address this issue than National Cancer Survivors Day (June 6). I share your frustration about the way conventional medicine identifies survivors as those who are in long-term recovery when, in fact, from the moment of diagnosis, everyone touched by cancer is in survival mode. This is true not only of patients, but also their caregivers, family members, and loved ones.

Survival begins as new cancer patients first confront the suspicion of the disease, and continues as they undergo the testing, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Their emotions can vary from fear to loneliness. There often is a sense of approaching mortality, and feelings that they’ve lost control over their lives, as well as confusion in interpreting medical information.

I applaud you for staking out your ground as a survivor from the outset, and I’m sure that your conviction is shared by millions all over the world. As far as therapies to complement your cancer treatment are concerned, you have wide choices.

Meditation and Mind-Body Medicine:

Explore mind-body techniques such as guided imagery, meditation, and energy medicine modalities such as Therapeutic Touch and Reiki.

Stay Active:

Regular exercise is an essential part of maintaining good health. Engage in gentle exercise (yoga is a good choice) as often as you can.


Eat lots of fresh (organic, if possible) fruits and vegetables (consider juicing to increase serving size without feeling too full); drink several cups of green tea daily (for its cancer protective and antioxidant effects); and eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, ground flaxseeds and cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines). Always discuss changes in your diet with your physician.

Seek Support:

Join a support program for people with cancer. The inspiration and hope you’ll find there is priceless.

Have Faith:

Don’t underestimate the role of your spiritual being in the healing process.

You might also check into retreat centers for those living with cancer. Two that I recommend are Commonweal in Bolinas, Calif., which offers week-long cancer help programs, and the Sunstone Cancer Support Foundation on the outskirts of Tucson, Ariz., which offers three- to five-day intensive healing retreats designed for adult survivors and their partners, caregivers, healthcare professionals, children and teens. (Some of the fellows at the University of Arizona Program in Integrative Medicine serve on Sunstone’s faculty.

For more information on complementary and alternative treatments for cancer see the book “Choices in Healing” by Michael Lerner, Ph.D., or consult the Moss Reports (visit www.ralphmoss.com or www.cancerdecisions.com).

I wish you the best, and encourage you to share your convictions with fellow survivors. Passion can be contagious and therapeutic!

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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Thank you, Hebbie!! You know, I keep telling myself that I'm going to BE a survivor.

But how much better is it to know that I ALREADY AM? Every single day I wake up now....I have survived cancer another day. That is a positive way to look at it and to feel about it.

I printed out this thread....and will check into the links as well. Thank you!!

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A good friend of mine who founded a local organization to train cancer survivors and their families to caregive to other cancer survivors and families had the definition I like: Survivor -- anyone who heard they had cancer and didn't fall over and die at the moment of diagnosis. I believe that.

Having said that, I believe that "survivor" is in the eye of the beholder. Each person has to decide whether they feel they are a survivor or not. My wife did not feel like a survivor until she was 10 months from diagnosis, finished with major treatment, passed the statistical prognosis and had a period of "wellness". Now she acts like a survivor. I, however, felt like a survivor from the beginning -- as the man said -- surviving the disease and fighting it.

I think we are all survivors, but each person has to believe that and own it for themselves. Don

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Thanks for the candor with which you write especially, for me, that it took Lucie 10 months to feel like a "survivor." IT makes me feel better knowing that not everyone immediately feels so positive.

I dont know if I even like the term "survivor." It seems kind of passive, you know. I don't like "fighter" much better, but some.

Now I am thinking about what other words might fit... If there is a word for it....


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I know that I am a survivor. I first heard I had lung cancer on March 29, 2002 (Good Friday that year) and I did not die that day or any day since. I have had the time to find out that I have many supportive family members and friends from all walks of my life. I have had the time to discuss all aspects of my cancer with my adult children and let them know that they are the most important accomplishment of my life and that I need and love them daily. I have had the time to see Hollywood through two more years of her life. I have had the time to find out that being diagnosed with cancer is life changing, but not all of those changes are bad.

And so I continue in my survivorship,


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