Surviving cancer is a major feat. This is a difficult and varied disease, requiring stamina and resolve as well as excellent medical care. Even with all these elements, many do not survive. Mesothelioma, the cancer linked to asbestos, has some of the lowest survival rates. For those who do beat cancer, the challenges of the disease do not stop. The issues of survivorship are unique and need to be addressed.
What it Means to Survive Cancer
To survive a disease typically means beating it once and for all. With cancer this is not usually the case. This is a unique disease that can recur in many who have been considered to survive it. A patient may be in remission and be considered a survivor, but always lives with the possibility, and in some cases probability, that the cancer will return.
Statistics of cancer survivorship generally refer to a percentage of a population still living after a cancer diagnosis. Those percentages have been going up for decades, but still demonstrate how hard it is to survive this disease and how much harder it gets as the years pass after a diagnosis. For instance, among those diagnosed with any type of cancer in 2000 the percentage that survived one year was 79 percent. Those that survived ten years dropped to just 60 percent.
The Struggle of Mesothelioma Patients
Survival rates are much lower for mesothelioma than for all types of cancer together. In 2013, the one-year survival rate for all mesothelioma patients diagnosed that year was just 41 percent, as compared to 82 percent for all types of cancers. Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, something that has largely happened to people on the job in certain industries.
Virgil Anderson is just one of those people struggling to survive mesothelioma, and his story is unfortunately not unique. He worked with asbestos for much of his career, from demolishing old buildings to working on cars with asbestos brakes and clutches. At age 50 he was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma and has since struggled with chemotherapy while his cancer continues to grow and worsen.
Issues of Cancer Survivorship
For those who do survive cancer, the struggle is not over when the cancer is declared to be in remission. The entire process of diagnosis, treatment, and surviving can be a huge ordeal, taking a physical and emotional toll on an individual. Some of the issues that survivors face include:
- A lack of understanding from loved ones, even if they mean well.
- Lingering physical pain and other side effects from the cancer and treatment.
- A changed physical appearance, which may include scars or weight gain.
- The need for follow up treatment and care.
- A changed outlook on life and feeling like a different person.
- Living with the fear of a recurrence.
- Psychological and emotional issues, such as trauma, depression, and anxiety.
For cancer survivors, there are many issues to continue to fight. The best thing any cancer survivor can do is seek out support, which can take many forms: support from friends and family, support groups for survivors, medical care from trusted doctors, and professional counseling and therapy.
Photo by Riccardo Annandale