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Former patients share what remission means to them

Former patients share what remission means to them

According to the American Cancer Society, there are 17 million cancer patients in remission in the U.S., with an average 5-year survival rate for all cancers combined of 68%. But what does it really mean to be in remission? We talk to a few of our past patients to see what it means to them.

For Suzanne, a two-time breast cancer patient, being in remission is about making sure she enjoys every bit of life. “I am a cancer thriver, not just a survivor,” she says. “To me this means finding the laughter in life, looking closely at the new leaves on the trees and marveling at springtime. It means watching the hummingbirds at my feeder and laughing as they buzz me, relishing every deep breath whilst I walk in the woodlands, and praising God that I can climb a hill without having to stop. And it means knowing that the cancer that was growing inside my breast and sternum has been vanquished.”

Chuck, a head-and-neck cancer patient, waxes philosophical. “Cancer really affects everyone differently, but one thing I think is universal is that people don’t like change. Change - in jobs, in housing, in relationships - causes stress. But people choose to make those changes. Cancer is something no one chooses. It feels like who you are is taken away from you and you become someone different. I finished my treatments five years ago, and I’m getting more used to being this new person, who was affected by cancer.  I’ve learned to make the most of it. I think a lot of survivors may wish they could go back to the way things were before. The best suggestion I have is to try to accept who they are now. They are a different person, but they are still a valuable person.”

Mark, a prostate cancer patient and pastor at a church in Lynnwood, has a spiritual outlook on remission: “It’s one thing to have my cancer treatment behind me,” he says, “but I choose each day to live free of the fear of cancer through the grace of God.” Many cancer survivors worry about what the future holds. For him, faith that cancer will not return is the answer to that fear.

Finally, Rich, one of our first patients at the Proton Therapy Center, says: “Being a cancer survivor means everything to me. Without the support of my wife, family, friends, work colleagues, and all the doctors, nurses, technicians, staff and other patients I met at the SCCA Proton Therapy Center, I probably would not be here today. No words can express my gratitude to everyone!”

For more stories of proton therapy graduates, check out our Survivor Stories, or ask our Patient Navigators to connect with other patients who have been treated with proton therapy at the Center.