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The transition from cancer patient to survivor


I attended a cancer continuing education course back in ’10-‘11 which covered all manner of topics related to patients that have been diagnosed with cancer.

One of the most interesting pieces of advice that our speaker gave, and that many different groups are taking up as well, is that an individual becomes a cancer survivor the moment they are diagnosed.

Maybe it would be difficult for you, but I know it would take me less than 2 minutes to name at least 10 people or more that have been diagnosed with some type of cancer within the last 1-2 years alone.

Survivorship is extremely different and personal to each individual and can even be separated into different descriptive terms depending on the stage that person is at within their care:

  • Acute survivorship – refers to right after diagnosis or during treatment
  • Extended survivorship – completion of treatment or several months post
  • Permanent survivorship – after treatment has been completed and measured in years

Each individual will go through this process at their own pace and will be affected depending on the type of cancer they have, whether it’s metastatic, types of treatments, etc.

The other important piece to remember is that if you are a family member or close friend of someone with this diagnosis you are usually considered to be a “co-survivor”.

While I cannot personally speak to having cancer, I do have a sister that has been fighting thymoma cancer for the last 11 years this June. I ride the roller coaster every time she goes to the doctor and pray that no news or change is good news and that our family will have more time to spend with her.

The most important thing to remember is that every person will receive and process information differently, but in the end communication is key. And remember that trying to keep to your normal routines and activities as much as possible may help to ease the process.

Just remember that you are already a survivor.

To better care for yourself or a loved one with cancer, learn more about our For Your Well Being Survivorship Program and sign up for as many classes as you like.

About Becky Kissinger, PT, DPT

Becky Kissinger, PT, DPT, provides comprehensive general rehabilitation services for patients of all ages. Dr. Kissinger has a special interest in providing treatment to adolescents with sports-related injuries, Parkinson’s disease and cancer patients. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biology and her doctorate degree in physical therapy at Concordia University-Wisconsin.

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