What does the word “remission” mean to you? Is it synonymous with the word “cure” in your mind?
I have had cancer 4 times now in my life. While I don’t deny that remission should always be the near-term target for newly diagnosed cancer patients, I think we need to evaluate what the word actually means.
In terms of cancer, remission is a period where you are deemed to have no detectable, or very little detectable cancer in your body. It does not always mean you are cancer-free. It is a starting point to your full recovery, not an actual cure.
First, understand that oncologists use the word “cure” to mean a cancer patient who has survived 5 years from their original diagnosis. Talk about setting the performance bar low! I was first diagnosed when I was 29-years-old. So if I died from cancer when I was 35, does that really mean that my doctor could take credit for having “cured” me? Not in my book.
Remission is your first step to growing old and beating this stupid cancer, once and for all. But there’s much to do on your part before it’s complete. Below are just a few of the needed steps, sampled from my new book This Time’s a Charm; Lessons of a Four-Time Cancer Survivor.
- Eat right. Enough said.
- Exercise. Cancer is anaerobic, which means it thrives in an environment low in oxygen. Regular exercise, 30 minutes of cardio five times a week, oxygenates your cells. It also strengthens your immune system and gives you a positive attitude towards your body.
- Control any anxiety or stress you have. It’s completely normal to have both when facing a challenge like cancer. But you have to keep them in check because they do not serve you. Stress and anxiety wear down your immune system and allow cancer cells to flourish. “What you’re eating is not as important as what’s eating you.” – Dr. Patrick Quillin
- Make future plans and believe in them. You need to see yourself in the future, healthy and happy with your life. You need to set attainable goals and work towards them every day.