Cancer Patients Are Not Losers!

It happened again today.

The front page of the local paper paid tribute to a local elementary school principal who died from cancer. The headline read “Mrs. Smith Loses Battle with Cancer.”

“Loses battle with cancer.”

What a slap in the face to the memory of Mrs. Smith. What a slap in the face to her grieving family, students and colleagues.

Mrs. Smith, the article continued, died at the age of 52, after battling cancer for nine years.

Nine years, ladies and gentlemen. Nine years of testing, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

Does anyone who endures nine years of cancer treatment, sound like a “loser” to you?

Cancer, or any chronic illness, is not for wimps and certainly not for losers. I have never known any cancer patient (and I know and have known thousands, many still living and some who have passed away) whom I would describe as “losers” or having “lost their battle.”

One only needs to take a look at the Memorials page on to see that there is not one single loser among the tributes. On the contrary; our memorials page is filled with tributes to    brave warriors.

I have always found it disturbing to hear that any cancer patient has “lost their battle with cancer.” Imagine if we referred to deceased soldiers as “Sgt. Jones’ body was returned to his family in the US for burial after he lost his battle with the Taliban.” The public, including family, friends, veterans’ groups and politicians would be outraged, by such a statement, and rightfully so.

As an incurable cancer patient who has been fighting a fifteen year battle I am outraged by what appear to be daily reports in the media of celebrities and neighbors down the street “losing their battle with cancer.” As a patient advocate who has witnessed the bravery of thousands of my fellow patients, I am offended.

Ad an editor who has written more obituaries than I care to count, I simply will not allow the phrase “lost their battle with cancer” to be included in any obituary that I post.

The human body was designed or evolved (take your pick) to live a finite number of years, give or take 75. One way or another, either due to chronic illness or so called “natural causes” the physical body expires.

 We don’t describe a deceased 76 year old who died of “natural causes” as having lost their battle with life. Whether a human dies as a 6 year old leukemia patient or a 76 year old with atherosclerosis, that person’s humanity and spirit far outlives a few mere decades of physical life.

The physical body is temporary. The essence the person who lived in that body is what we remember; what they taught us, how we enjoyed knowing that person, how having that person in our lives made us feel better, how that person contributed to the good of his/her family, community or the world…these are the factors that truly matter.

These are the factors of survivorship and survivors don’t lose the battles; their positive influence on those whose lives they touched while they were alive, always remain and lead to victory.

This is an excerpt from the book “Cancer Can’t Defeat Us!” by Gabriella Graham/ Copyright © 2012 by Red Tailed Hawk Publishing/All rights reserved.

Fred Suggests a Frank Discussion About Post Op Recovery!

By “Pal” member, Fred, from the USA

“A frequent concern that arises among patients who are planning to, or have had CRS and HIPEC, is the length of time required to recover.  A corollary to recovery time is what “recovery” actually means.   Before addressing these issues, I should emphasize that each patient’s experience will differ depending on a host of factors (e.g., age, general health, extent of tumors, type of cancer, invasiveness of surgery, etc.).  There is no simple rule of thumb to determine an expected recovery time.

What is recovery?  How do patients and surgeons define “recovery?”

This question is one that never occurred to me in my initial discussions with my surgeon; as a result there was a misunderstanding.  He did not mince words regarding the seriousness of my condition and the necessary surgery.  However, he indicated that I should be back to “normal” in a few months.  The problem was his idea of “normal” and mine were different.  I viewed “normal” as my state of health prior to developing the disease.  His notion was apparently being able to return to work and everyday activities free of the disease. 

In brief, my post operation weight dropped from about 150 to 109 before recovering to 118, which is my new “normal” (permanent weight loss is a common result of the surgery) and the necessary removal of various organs and sections of organs has had a major impact on my digestive system, which in turn has affected my quality of life in certain ways.  As I’ve often joked, I’ve developed a close personal relationship with my bathroom and have become much more aware of the locations of public facilities.  Thus, in one sense I’ve never “recovered” from the surgery; I have not returned to my prior state of health.

However, I did return to work, returned to my nature photography, and took up competitive table tennis after a 30 year hiatus. I am physically able to do most things I did pre surgery, including working out at a fitness center several times a week, but am acutely aware of the limits due to the digestive issues.

Time frame for recovery

My particular surgery was about 10 hours. I spent almost a month in the hospital before being released, then another few days a week later due to dehydration. 

At home, I began walking around the neighborhood gradually lengthening the time and distance as I felt stronger   I was able to return to my desk job on a part time basis 3 months after surgery and on a full time basis a couple of months later. 

I began doing my nature photography carrying very limited equipment about 4 months after surgery and a full backpack about a year after surgery.

Recovery, the “new normal”, and Senior Olympics!

I retired 14 months after the surgery and began playing table tennis at a local club soon after, winning two bronze medals and a silver medal in the local senior Olympics and a bronze medal for my talent level at the 2011 U.S. nationals this past December. 

Looking back, I’d say full recovery for me, which I’d define as reaching my new “normal,” took about 9-12 months.  As noted above, and as a former economist, I again emphasize that I represent just one data point.  Recovery time will vary considerably across individuals.”

Articles posted in “PMP Pals” and on are written from the perspective of patients and their family caregivers and are not intended to substitute for licensed professional legal or medical care. Each patient is unique and should seek the counsel of a licensed professional for their own specific case. Copyright © 2012 by Gabriella Graham/PMP Pals’ Network/All rights reserved. Visit us on the web at