How can cancer be emotionally valuable?

You have survived the roller coaster ride of not knowing what the lump or shadow is.

You have made it through the waiting for the X-ray reports, scheduling of a biopsy and waiting for those results.

You have been through the consults with all your physicians. You anxiously survived the time from your diagnosis to the start of the treatment.

You even survived all the treatment, although there were days when you thought you wouldn’t.

Now a year has passed and you feel like “you” again, only different.

You realize you have changed in more than the physical ways the treatment has caused. Emotionally you are, could it be, stronger?

You view the world differently. The little things that may have upset you before now seem trivial.

Each and every day seems to be special, colors are more intense. Yes, you have changed, and could it be, for the better?

You are experiencing what a good number of our long-term survivors discover: Cancer can have a positive effect on your life.

Remember, we cure more than two-thirds of our patients. Many of them find once they have recovered from the acute side effects of their treatment, they do live healthier lifestyles as well.

Many patients make changes in their overall lifestyle such as quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthier foods, taking supplements and exercising more.

Your oncology team (surgeon, medical oncologist and radiation oncologist) will follow you closely for the development of other cancers. Screenings will include mammograms, PSA, PAP smears, skin checks, etc.

Patients are monitored for long-term side effects and health issues caused by treatment because their oncology team’s goal is to make each and every patient healthier and happier than they were before their diagnosis.

Cancer survivors have the opportunity to experience an emotional metamorphosis.

They have faced a life-threatening illness, conquered it, and view every day thereafter as a gift.

Dr. Kris Gast is a board certified radiation oncologist. She has been in practice for 21 years, the last 13 at Fort Smith Radiation Oncology in Fort Smith. Her column, Cancer Demystified, appears the first Wednesday of every month in the Times Record. Send questions to Cancer Demystified, P.O. Box 5710, Fort Smith, AR 72913 or bfitzpatrick@fsro.net.