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year 2012
survival rate
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Is Cancer Just A Number?
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Is Cancer Just A Number?

How many people do you know that have been touched by cancer?

How many of you have been touched by cancer?

The statistics are quite mind boggling when you look at them. As of January 2008, the National Cancer Institute estimated that there are nearly 12 million U.S. citizens living which have a history of cancer. While there are a number of these living cancer free, many others still have cancer and are seeking treatment.

There are roughly 1,640,000 new cancer diagnosis estimated to occur in 2012. Note that this does not include non-invasive cancers and a few other forms of cancer that are not required to be reported. And of all diagnosed cancers, just over 76% will be found in people fifty-five and older.

This year, 2012, it is expected that nearly 578,000 peole will die from cancer here in the U.S. That is over fifteen-hundred people a day. This makes cancer second only to heart disease as a cause of death. Almost one in four, think about that for a moment.

Pretty sobering if you look at it from that perspective.

But the U.S. has quite a large population. In fact there are roughly 313,155,000 people living in the United States, which would place cancer currently affecting just under 4% of the population. Deaths each year attributable to cancer accounts for only .2% (that is a decimal point in front of the two).

Additionally, when you look at five-year survival rates is around 67% for cancers diagnosed between the years 2001 and 2007. This is quite a bit higher than the 5 year survival rate of 49% for those diagnosed between the years of 1975 and 1977. Early detection, advancement in treatments and other medical advances have had a tremendous impact on how cancer is treated.

The costs of associated with cancer diagnosis, treatment and the results are estimated (National Institutes of Health) in 2007 alone at $226.8 billion. This total cost is broken down into two categories;

  • $103.8 billion (direct medical costs; overall cost of the healthcare of cancer)
  • $123.0 billion (indirect costs; lost productivity due to premature death)

That is $18,900 spent per estimated (12 million) persons affected by cancer. You could even look at it as costing every U.S. citizen $725 each year. A non-insignificant amount of money to say the least. The charts, the graphs, the numbers tend to forget and fail to capture one important thing.

Cancer is a very personal and individual fight for survival.

The statistics shown above are our impersonal method as humans to quantify how things affect us. Someone has to make lists and make sure everyone understands how many of this or that happen in life. I guess it is our way as a society of keeping order of the chaos.

If you take a look at those numbers cited above, you will find 12 million individuals that had to face cancer. Each of them have a singular and moving story to tell of how cancer impacted or altered their life. There are those individuals whom will never get the chance to tell a story of survival.

There are family members, friends, doctors, medical staff, and a host of others surrounding each of these individuals. There are countless others affected in verying and lessening degrees as well. But the biggest person impacted is the individual, the one with cancer. For these people, cancer is not just a number on a government chart.

These individuals, they have stories and lessons to teach others.

The stories of first diagnosis, the decisions made and the emotions can not be plotted or neatly placed in bullet format in a report. I have stories, you have stories of a loved one and what they taught me during their fight for survival. The stages are fairly well defined, but each stage is very personal for the individual going through cancer.

Paula Holland De Long, a cancer survivor herself wrote of four stages people go through in an article she wrote called Common Emotional Stages of Cancer.

  • Diagnosis and Treatment

    All of the things one would expect; the rollercoaster of emotions take place. These will range from fear, sadness, depression to guilt, hope, numbness and a whole range of chaotic emotions.

  • Treatment Ends and Rebuild

    Emotions will continue to shirt up and down upon successful or non-successful treatment. Your life is left either in a curious new time to rebuild or preparation for the inevitable outcome.

  • Transition

    The hyped up adrenaline one has when fighting a disease subsides; time will become much more precious. A growing urgent and commitment of purpose and satisfaction in life happens. You begin to let go of what you once considered major as now being trivial. You will begin to find other more important things to focus in life.

  • Normal Life

    Focus has shifted from the cancer to something else in life.

It is this last stage that I have hear many times from others. You reach a point in which you stop fighting to return to what life once was. You reach and accept the new "normal" that is your life. Once the individual reaches this point, life becomes normal once again for them.

This does not mean that the battle of survival ends, its does not mean one has given up. What it means is that the individual is free to have a life. That life might be short, it might be long, but it is once again their life. Their life is not just a number on a government chart. Their life is not a statistic wrapped up with millions of other individuals.

No, they are one of twelve million other individuals, living life as best they can; creating memories for others to share with the generations. Individuals that live a life, lived a life and loved. No, cancer is not just a number. Cancer is just a word used in the story of a person's life.


Street Talk

Weary good article!

Reply
  about 7 years ago
AJ  

Thank you, Joseph. I hope the 4 stages of cancer is helpful to many who are just being diagnosed as well as at the various stages of this disease.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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