Dr. Thomson discusses what she would share with a woman who is newly diagnosed with cancer.
I actually had a good friend recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and I can tell you that when I heard, I went to her office and I kind of closed the door and I just went in there and I shared my story, and I said, you know, “I have worked with cancer for many, many years, and the one message I want to get to you is that people survive cancer.”
I know that much of my optimism was because I had been sharing time with breast cancer survivors for ten years at least when that time came that I got my diagnosis.
So to me, cancer was not the C-word. To me, cancer was a survivable disease. I never for a moment, I had such peace about where I was going to be in five years. I didn’t see this as terminal in any way for me, and I remember during my recovery at home, the first week I was back at home after my surgery, my sister-in-law who is a nurse was staying with me, and the doorbell would ring, oh my gosh, I think every 20 minutes–flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers–the whole house was filled with flowers.
And a lot of people, you know, my husband’s friends who were concerned about, “Hey, your wife has cancer.” And I remember, like it got to the point where she and I would just laugh hysterically because we go, “You know, it’s the C-word.” People think that you’ve got one foot in the grave, and they, you know, “Oh, it’s been so nice to know Cindy, whatever. You know, it’s too bad her life is over.”
And I just remember when I met with my friend who was recently diagnosed, I said, “You need to put on the face of survivorship,” and I showed her that graph I showed yesterday. This is cancer survivorship. We are, the numbers are expanding daily, and women, men, people survive cancer. And the key is they’ve got to get screened early, which she did, get diagnosed with early stage disease, which she did, and then trump through all of this treatment and come out the other side and begin to really focus on lifestyle, and you are going to be fine. In fact, you are going to be better.
I can’t tell you how many women I have talked with who have been through a cancer diagnosis who say to me, “It is the worst thing and the best thing that ever happened to me.” Over and over and over, I hear that from people, and the first time I heard it, I was just taken aback: How can you be so optimistic? And having been there, now having heard it so many times, I realize it gives you a chance to reflect on life, and when I reflected I went, I have a great life. I have a great family. I have a great husband. I have a great job. I get to do what I love to do.
You know what, life is good. Why am I worrying about this? My husband and I used to call it a bump in the road, where there’s this bump in the road, and I said, “Well, maybe it’s a pothole but we got through it.” We are moving forward.
About Dr. Thomson, Ph.D., R.D.:
Dr. Cynthia Thomson, Ph.D., R.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona. She is a registered dietitian with a doctoral degree in nutritional sciences. She has been conducting cancer research since 1994. Dr. Thomson was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2003.