Breast CancerIssue Introductions

Life Is Interrupted, but Cancer Cannot Push Its Pause Button

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in her introduction to the October issue, Lillie Shockney explores the fear of cancer recurrence, the value of exercise, and other breast cancer-related articles featured in the issue.
October 2020 Vol 6 No 5
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Co-Founder, Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators® (AONN+)
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship®
University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer
Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Co-Developer, Work Stride: Managing Cancer at Work
Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions
Breast cancer survivor

One thing we know for sure during this strange time is that it doesn’t matter if you are dealing with a pandemic, a hurricane, or wildfires, cancer will not push its pause button and let you deal with it later. As one survivor wrote in this issue, cancer is an equal-opportunity disease, which is exactly right.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so this issue presents many breast cancer stories. We also feature personal journeys of patients with anal cancer, which few people are willing to discuss but should be mainstreamed into our knowledge bank like other cancers.

Each of us deals with our cancer diagnosis and treatments in our own way; it can be even more concerning when you see several family members who are also diagnosed with cancer. After reading this issue, you will not find it odd. The reason is that 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer at some point. Yes, 1 in 3! You likely have previous generations with cancer, and so far, we cannot change that the older we get, the higher the risk of cancer.

When a breast cancer nurse flips to the other side and becomes a patient, her world suddenly looks very different. Putting on a hospital gown can cause a well-educated and experienced breast cancer nurse to forget much when she is told she has stage IV breast cancer. Read her story of how cancer intersected with her career.

Life is interrupted when you hear you have cancer. We need to give cancer the time it takes to get rid of it, but not allow it to steal away more of our time. Read this review full of stories of courage and hope, as featured in a new documentary.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t fear cancer recurrence, including myself. It is annoying when people ask the “remission question.” Doctors and nurses are trying to change the way we discuss it. When a treatment is intended to be curative, we say that at this time we believe the person is cancer- free. For patients living with advanced cancer that is not curable, however, the goal is to get the cancer under control.

Don’t underestimate the value of exercise in keeping you healthy during and after cancer treatment. It also helps with prevention. We are not advising you to get a gym membership, but you can take small steps and build your exercise routine up gradually. Often, people jump into 45 minutes of a cardio workout, and the result is laying on the floor breathless, feeling that exercise is not for them. Exercise is for everyone.

We present an article that reinforces the importance of getting a second opinion. If cancer is misdiagnosed, the treatment is also going to be wrong. Physicians should never “guess” the type of cancer. It requires diagnostic tests and accurate pathology results to make a diagnosis, and no treatment should be started until the diagnosis is confirmed with a tissue biopsy.

Also, read a story about a woman with triple-negative breast cancer, which historically has been the most common type linked to genetic mutations.

So, take a second to yourself and start reading. We hope you all remain healthy and safe. Mask up if you must leave your home. Social distance. And focus on what you can do today rather than what you cannot. We know the worth of water when the well is dry. We will eventually get the well producing water once again.

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Last modified: October 26, 2020

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