Being OK with Brain Cancer

Bob Riter is the retired Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appeared regularly in the Ithaca Journal and on OncoLink. He can be reached at bobriter@gmail.com.

A collection of Bob’s columns, When Your Life is Touched by Cancer: Practical Advice and Insights for Patients, Professionals, and Those Who Care, is available in bookstores nationwide and through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All royalties from the sale of the book come to the Cancer Resource Center.

Most cancers become life-threatening when they spread, or metastasize, from the original site to distant organs. Brain cancer is different in that it rarely metastasizes elsewhere. That isn’t much consolation, however, because the brain is our most essential organ.

Emily is a young woman with brain cancer. She’s had two surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. She sometimes confuses people because she looks so good. They assume that her treatment cured her cancer.

When they say, “You look good,” she wants to reply, “Well, I have cancer. I live with cancer”

The treatments have been effective, but not curative.

Emily’s cancer was discovered after a car accident. She woke up in the back of an ambulance and had no memory of what had happened. It was quickly apparent that she had experienced a seizure, but it took several days of testing to determine that the seizure was caused by a tumor deep inside her brain.

She was also pregnant.

Most of her treatment was delayed a few months until after she gave birth. The baby was born in good health and continues to thrive eight years later.

Ironically, Emily told me that cancer simplified her life. That gave me pause because her life seemed anything but simple. She went on to say that since high school she had been trying to prove to others what she could accomplish in her career. Cancer made her realize that she doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. All she wants to do is to be with and love her son, husband, family, and friends.

 “Cancer made me let go of all those things that crowded my life,” she said.

It also makes her appreciate what most of us take for granted. Her hair, for example. And her ability to speak. Her tumor was located near the area of the brain that controls speech. Her speech hasn’t been affected and she recognizes that to be a gift.

If you’d meet Emily on the street, you’d notice her smile and her vivacious personality. You wouldn’t look at her and think she has cancer.

But, as she says, “I have cancer and that’s OK.”


 

 

Click here to see all of Bob’s Columns

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