Over the last week I’ve hosted some interviews for Patient Power with several people who “should have been dead.” They have serious illnesses that have traditionally been called “terminal.”
Faith Sinanan of Ashland, Ore. found out five years after being treated for breast cancer that the cancer had come back – in her brain. Charles Burgess of Homer, Alaska was told he had brain cancer that had started behind his left ear. Jairo Venegas, just 29 and from near Seattle, was told his headaches were tumors in his brain. In each case, they knew each day was precious and that their time might be short. Statistics for brain cancer, lung cancer, and metastatic breast cancer all paint a bleak picture. But statistics tell the story of a group and you or a loved one, as an individual, might well have a more positive outcome. While it is important to be realistic, it is also important to have hope that you can beat the odds, because some people do.
While Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer, I have met people who have lived many years with this condition – it’s rare, but it happens. Venegas is doing well six years after brain cancer surgery and is studying to be an oncologist to help others. Burgess is back to seeing patients as a psychiatrist in Alaska. And Sinanan is on a trip to Maui with her 21-year-old daughter where she says her goal is to “meet hot guys on the beach and eat ice cream.”
No one knows how long they will live. When a serious diagnosis intervenes, your view of the future for yourself or a parent or a child can change dramatically. But no matter how dark things may seem, no matter how sad the outcome for most people, it may not be for you. People do live longer than expected. Some people do return to a full life. It happens. I have met them. It’s worth remembering there really are people who beat the odds. Don’t ever let a doctor or anyone else take that hope away from you.
And if you are one of those people who prove the experts wrong, speak out. Sinanan, Burgess and Venegas have done so on my website, www.patientpower.info.