After the Cure: The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors

After the Cure: The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors

After the Cure: The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors

After the Cure: The Untold Stories of Breast Cancer Survivors

Excerpt

When Emily Abel finished six months of breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation in 1993, she assumed her troubles were over. Doctors, friends, and family reassured her. She read scores of triumphalist breast cancer narratives; “Now I'm cured,” they all pronounced by way of conclusion. And everywhere she looked, she saw ads for hospitals and pharmaceuticals displaying radiantly healthy cancer survivors, restored to their families and careers.

Emily soon realized, however, that breast cancer is a chronic condition. The disease can return at any time. Watchful waiting and second-guessing one's body never end. Every blood test and doctor's visit threatens to awaken what Alice Stewart Trillin dubbed “the dragon that sleeps inside anyone who has had cancer.” What was more unexpected was that lingering side effects of therapy also had made recovery elusive. When Emily complained about the overwhelming fatigue that persisted months and then years after finishing treatment, doctors explained that patients commonly experienced depression after cancer; perhaps she needed psychotherapy. Other breast cancer survivors, she was told, reported nothing like this.

But when Emily revealed her problems to other survivors, several confessed their own. They mentioned not only fatigue but also a panoply of other sensations they never before had experienced. She also spoke to adult children of survivors who recalled their mothers profoundly altered by breast cancer that had struck many years earlier. One mother had abandoned the tennis games that previously filled her mornings. Another had jettisoned a cherished career. If these women had “beaten” the cancer, then why did their lives seem so different?

Perhaps chemotherapy and radiation resembled other therapies that forestall death but often leave people with a raft of debilitating . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.