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Recurrence: The Fear of Every Cancer Survivor

By HERWriter
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After treatment has ended and survivors try to resume their lives, the single most prevalent thought that seems to never go away is, “Is my cancer coming back?”

It’s the conclusion we jump to when we feel a pain or learn of someone else’s recurrence. A chilling voice creeps into our minds sowing seeds of fear that the thing we dread most will come to pass.

The likelihood of recurrence depends on many things: the kind of cancer, the stage, the treatment, and many mysteries of cancer no one understands. Some aggressive cancers, such as ovarian cancer, are particularly tough to control. Between 70% and 90% of women with the disease will, at some point, have a recurrence and most will have multiple relapses.

So how does one deal with the real fear of recurrence and not have it consume our lives? Having my cancer return several times myself, I know too well the stress of waiting, worrying and wondering. Before long, your life can become miserable if you don’t have some tools to help.

But how to quiet the voices? Ah, now that’s the question . . .

Here are a few things that I’ve learned over two decades living with cancer:

Worrying achieves nothing. It won’t change the test or make the diagnosis better. All it does is drain me of energy, steal my joy and rob me of the time I cherish. As long as I'm doing what is necessary to monitor my disease, I try not to fixate on the “what if.”

I have faith. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, it is useful to assign the problem to a higher power. I have no ability to control the universe, so I relinquish that job. Once I have taken the steps necessary to improve my situation, I accept that the rest is just out of my hands.

I live in the present as much as possible. Instead of worrying about how many years or months or days I might live, I live as fully as possible in this day, drinking the experience as though it is quenching my thirst for life.

I have hope. I am an unwavering optimist and honestly believe that I will survive. I set my mind on the positive – not naïve, but with conviction that whatever comes up, we will handle.

Add a Comment6 Comments


Just remember, life is a process and we work on it every day. So don't be so hard on yourself. What you are doing with your work is inspiring and guiding others. That will bring you strength and grace.

September 28, 2009 - 11:11am

Your words are inspiring and hopeful - I hope am able to keep my head up like you do. It gets kind of hard sometimes and then I remember- LIFE is hard sometimes. Everyone's got their own garbage to deal with - whether it's cancer or some other life situation. Thank you for your words of inspiration!

September 28, 2009 - 10:29am
EmpowHER Guest

Annette, inspiring as always!

September 19, 2009 - 7:48am
EmpowHER Guest

Annette, You say everything I try to live and you do it so well. God bless you for all you do. Dona H.

September 18, 2009 - 3:27pm

Annette ~ Your empathy with cancer survivors and willingness to share your personal journey always helps to quiet my mind about my own fear of the unknown and always serves as a reminder to me to take things as they come and live each day to the fullest.

September 18, 2009 - 10:22am
EmpowHER Guest

I truly love reading your articles. They uplift me every single time.

September 18, 2009 - 9:07am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.