Cancer survivors as heroes
Cancer survivor is a broad term that is often used to describe a person that may have been diagnosed with cancer of any form but is still living. Whether a person is considered as being a cancer survivor immediately after diagnosis, completion of treatment of when he is dying, the definition of this term can vary from one group to the other. Some people diagnosed with cancer refuse to be termed as survivors or reject certain aspects of the term’s definition. According to Merrick (2015), the term cancer survivor defines a person that is either currently living with the disease or beyond it. This may specifically refer a person that has completed basic cancer management and does not exhibit any signs of active disease. The term may also refer to a person that has progressive disease and is receiving treatment but is beyond the terminal phase of the disease. Similarly, it may refer to a person that may have previously had cancer but is completely healed. As explained by Best (2011), the Cancer Survivorship Coalition has defined a cancer survivor as someone that has been diagnosed and is therefore living with the disease from the time of his/her diagnosis until death. This broad definition includes people that are actively seeking treatment as well as those succumbing to death as a result of untreatable cancer. Whichever the definition of a cancer survivor, many have been considered as heroes. This paper looks at how many of the cancer survivors have been considered as heroes.
Cancer survivors as heroes
Being a hero refers to the aspect of being admired or even being idealized because of exceptional achievements, courage as well as noble qualities that one exhibits. While cancer does not operate on the normal human terms, becoming a cancer survivor that qualifies to be termed heroic is not an easy thing either. Although people think that the term hero is used to cover-up for the negative impacts associated with the reality of the disease, it is obvious that cancer survivors encounter a great deal of challenges, which, when they survive, qualify them being labeled as heroes. According to Merrick (2015), cancer patients persevere through pain, suffer when undergoing treatment, some live while others die. As such, the issue of cancer survivorship is intertwined with heroism with every cancer survivor qualifying to be termed as a hero.
According to Miller (2012), cancer survivors that qualify to be considered as heroes mainly include those that take the aspect of living with as well as fighting the disease as a life-transforming experience. This means that such people, even though they know that they live with an illness that they do have any control over, do not take their situation as the end of life but they instead fight until they either recover or succumb to their situation. Until recently, a popular viewpoint was that being diagnosed of cancer is equivalent to receiving a death sentence. However, the last thirty years have been marked by constant shift of cancer from being a significantly fatal disease to being a disease in which a majority of those diagnosed undergo treatment and subsequently report a high degree of survivorship. This constant improvement in the rate and degree of survival has therefore been accompanied by constant translation from debates about cancer victims to debates about cancer survivors and subsequently cancer survivor heroes (Merrick, 2015).
As argued by Best (2011), the number of the cancer survivors that can considered as heroes depend of the number of cancer victims that actually survive the illness. Statistical evidence generated by Miller (2012) show that there are about eleven million people, which represent about one person for every thirty people, living in United States today that are either undergoing treatment or have previously done so. This means that United States has about eleven million cancer survivor heroes that have persevered through the pain and suffering associated with cancer treatment. This number of cancer survivor heroes is expected to increase to about twenty million individuals in 2026 given that there is constant annual increase in the number of cancer survivors, which results from constant advancement in early detection as well as treatment. While this projected figure is based on the most prevalent cancer types, it means that the number of projected cancer survivor heroes will include about 3 million of those diagnosed with prostate cancer, 757,000 of those diagnosed with colon as well as rectum cancer, 614,000 of those diagnosed with melanoma, 3 million of those diagnosed with breast cancer and 724,000 of those diagnosed with uterine corpus cancer (Best, 2011).
An important aspect through which cancer survivors are considered as heroes is the duration of time they have lived with the disease since diagnosis. According to Merrick (2015), about 56% of all the cancer survivors were diagnosed within the last ten years. About 21% of all female survivors were diagnosed in more than twenty years compared about 13% of male survivors. Nearly half of these are aged seventy years and above although the age distribution mostly varies depending on the type of cancer that a survivor is living with. For instance, 64% of cancer survivors diagnosed with prostate cancer are aged seventy years and above compared to about 30% of survivors diagnosed with melanoma.
Cancer survivors are also considered as heroes because of their level of perseverance while undergoing painful treatment. According to Miller (2012), about three million women in United States are living with breast cancer and they have a history of a severely invasive aspect of their condition. About 70% of these survivors are aged sixty years and above while about 7% are aged fifty years or younger. As explained by Merrick (2015), these breast cancer survivors persevere when undergoing painful surgical treatment that includes the breast-conserving surgery or mastectomy. BCS, when undertaken along with radiation to the affected area increase the long-term survival probability to a level that is equivalent to that enhanced through mastectomy. Some patients may however require undergoing mastectomy because they might have exhibited certain tumor characteristics including tumors that may be in their advanced stages or having relatively large as well as multiple tumors. Younger women aged below forty years as well as patients diagnosed with large or even highly aggressive tumors are also subjected to the severely painful surgical treatment with mastectomy (Merrick, 2015). Although mastectomy is painful as well as intimidating particularly because it entails the removal of all the breast tissues, cancer survivor heroes opt going for it, instead of choosing radiation therapy, to curb the possibility of recurrence. On the same note, the number of cancer survivors heroes living with non-metastatic disease and opt for prophylactic mastectomy has drastically increased from 5% in 1998 to 45% in 2015. This exhibits a high degree of courage among these survivors, which further explains why they are considered as heroes. Such heroes persevere through the various consequences associated with this treatment, including numbness, premature menopause, tingling, chronic pain, and tightness of muscles, which may prevail until they reach the end of their life (Best, 2011).
Cancer survivors, particularly those of tender age, are considered heroes because of their ability to persevere through multiple therapies. According to Miller (2012), estimated figures show that about 65,000 cancer survivors are aged fourteen years and below while about 47,000 are aged between fifteen and nineteen years. Most of these are usually diagnosed with leukemia, brain tumors and sarcomas. Survivors diagnosed with any of these pediatric cancers are usually subjected to various therapies, which might range between surgery, chemotherapy, subjective therapy as well as radiation. These therapies are usually dispensed by a team of specialists that include surgeons, oncologists, psychologists, social workers as well as pediatric life specialists. Although these therapies are usually painful as well as traumatizing, young survivor heroes undergo them with courage, which generates a great deal of success measured on basis of therapy outcomes.
Cancer is a serious illness that requires a great deal of courage for someone to survive. While not everyone diagnosed with the disease survives, survivorship usually varies depending on the perspective taken when defining the term. All cancer survivors qualify to be considered as heroes because they persevere through pain, suffering, intimidation and trauma when undergoing treatment to increase chances of living. Heroism is also evident depending on the number of years that survivors live with the disease as well as their ability to persevere during various therapies and surgical treatments. Cancer survivor heroes include children and adults, young and old as well as men and women.
Best, J. (2011). Everyone is a Winner: Life in Our Congratulatory Culture. California: University of California.
Merrick, C. (2015). Adult Cancer Survivors: Health Behavior after Diagnosis, International Public Health Journal, 7(3):45-229.
Miller, K. (2012). Excellent Care for Cancer Survivors: A Guide to Fully Meet Their Needs in Medical Offices and in the Community. Westport CT: Praeger.