Cancer as the Gift that Keeps on Giving
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
APRIL 19, 2018
I sort of apologize for today's rather flip title, but it fits right into a discussion my group had yesterday afternoon. In all too many unpleasant ways, cancer is the gift that keeps on giving. Women in the group talked about dental issues, cardiac concerns, difficulties losing or even maintaining weight, nagging aches and pains, etc. etc. etc. All of these issues seem to be related to cancer treatments. Yes, of course, we are all grateful and delighted to be alive, but it is indeed frustrating to note the many changes that might not otherwise be part of our lives.
Some of them seem less important although very annoying--e.g. eyebrows and eye lashes that did grow back in, but never remotely matched their earlier thickness or length. Several women, including me, thought that their hair was much less lush than pre-cancer. Hair is one of those things that we absolutely, having been bald, appreciate having, but it is hard not to miss the earlier version. Then there are the serious concerns like cardiac damage caused by radiation or particular chemo drugs (think Adria and herceptin) and lung damage caused by radiation and chronic GI issues from radiation in the abdomen or pelvis. And then there are the in between things like fatigue.
Like thinner hair and fatter waist lines, fatigue is also age-related. We are all older (hurray!) than we used to be, and we will never know if we would be feeling this way at age X if cancer and cancer treatment had not been part of our lives. All too many people feel that they never regain their pre-cancer energy or stamina. This ranges from not being able to party so long to not being able to keep up work and family responsibilities.
Today's article is from Health Day Reporter and describes the accelerated aging experienced by many cancer survivors. How is that for ironic and depressing?
After Cancer: Accelerated Aging?
Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Even decades after treatment, cancer survivors tire more easily than people with no history of the disease, according to new research.
The findings hint at a pattern of "accelerated aging" for people with a cancer history.
"The main goal of cancer treatment has been survival, but studies like this suggest that we need also to examine the longer-term effects on health and quality of life," said the study's senior author, Jennifer Schrack. She's an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.