Living with Cancer Pt. 2 

Cancer survival rates have gone up. There’s a growing population of people living with forms of the disease that used to be far more often fatal. 20 years ago survivor rates were lower and cancer was something most people didn’t talk about openly. Today’s cancer survivors say attitudes are changing.”I went in for a surgery that was supposed to be unrelated.””They found ovarian cancer.”Pam MacKiernan clearly remembers her reaction.”I wasn’t expecting ovarian. My mother had colon cancer. I’ve always been careful about colonoscopy.” “I remember telling a co-worker this ovarian is a death sentence.”That was 6 years ago.”With ovarian 80 percent will reoccur and only 60 to 70 percent will make 5 years.”Margery Wesley understands what it’s like.”I was going to have my knee repaired and it was time to have my mammogram. I decided well I have time to do that so I did. Instead of having my knee repaired I started going through the breast cancer thing.”Both women have been through a lot since their initial diagnosis.”I’ve had 5 recurrences. I’ve had a stem cell transplant.””One of the problems I have had is I developed lymphodema which is a very common thing to have after you have surgery. It was unexpected because my nodes were not involved. I did not have chemo.””It’s not that you thrive but you learn to cope. Some days you cope really well and some days if you can get out of bed and sit at the table that’s coping really well so it varies and sometimes it’s unpredictable.”Pam and Margery say having cancer is different for each person. They both still try to be as active as they can.”Now the chemotherapies are better. I’m on chemo now and I just cross country skied 3 hours yesterday. The week after chemo I don’t feel so great but the next 3 weeks I feel good.””I’m in an exercise program here which I couldn’t even lift my arm 3 years ago.”An assessment done by the Maine Cancer Consortium 5 years ago found many challenges for people living with cancer. Support for the survivors and their families was one of them.”My husband has been 6 years with this with know…he… Even though I’m not that sick it’s still like he drives me to chemo. It’s tough on them too.””Unfortunately some caregivers, some partners aren’t able to face what it takes. I think both Pam and I are so lucky because we have husbands that can help us through everything. We have friends that can help us through everything. Not everybody has that. Some people don’t want to hear about it. They don’t want to see you. They don’t want to talk about it.”Pam and Margery say the support from others going through the same thing is very important to them.”It’s very supportive to just be around people who understand. Pam and I share a language now so she can say did you take this? Did it feel like this and I know exactly what she means.””We just think medications and treatments solve everything. They don’t.You have a disease. You live with it. You wake up and you say okay today this is the normal. Sometimes you think back to the normal 5 years ago and you can’t do that. It’s not helpful.”Both women believe it’s important for them to be proactive about their cancer and to get as much information as they can. Pam and Margery say they focus on what’s ahead instead of looking back.”Things change every day so we’re really lucky to be living now because every month something new is being discovered and every month that’s going to help one of us.”A cancer diagnosis can be terrifying but the survivors and doctors TV5 talked with say getting beyond the initial shock is crucial.They say their message is one of hope for what the future can hold.