October 4, 2000
Fake Breast Cancer Survivor Statistics
1/19/1954 - 4/28/2002
Last April I became a 5-year breast cancer survivor. There was no fanfare. I told few people at the time. For me, it was no "milestone". The irony was too painful to consider for very long. You see, I metastasized to my lungs just 3½ years after my original diagnosis.
But wait! I'm a survivor! The media and doctors and researchers and pundits will celebrate my 5-year survival as a glaring success. They will use my stat as a 5-year survivor to give hope and encouragement to the newly diagnosed. They will shout these same stats at races, in ads and at luncheons to garner more money for research. They will pat themselves on the back about what a great job they've all done to keep me alive for 5 more years.
My (probable) eventual death from breast cancer will be overshadowed by my successful 5-year survival from this disease. The "stat" of my death doesn't make good copy. I failed somehow. Much better to accentuate the positive! Keep that happy face.
Okay, okay. I'll get my tongue out of my cheek now. But that sad fact remains that too many of us 5-year survivors will die from this disease. And many of us are young, with young families; though I know of few people who think five more years of life is enough no matter what their age.
All too often we are woefully unprepared for a mets diagnosis. I know I was. There is precious little information, and our medical teams are hesitant to talk about the possibility of mets on the heels of a breast cancer diagnosis. It's just too scary. As I write these words I'm keenly aware of how much I 'm probably scaring you right now, although that is not my intent. I know all too well there is also a part of us all that doesn't want to hear it.
But honestly, where are those 44,000 women dying every year from breast cancer coming from? Have you ever considered how many of them are 5-year survivors? Wouldn't you like to know? I know I would. I wouldn't feel so alone.
So, am I a survivor? You betcha. But does being a 5-year survivor impress me? As my daughter says, that would be a NO.
Karen Gann 10/4/00