Cancer Patients Tell Their Stories of Survival

May 1, 1995
Oncology NEWS International, Oncology NEWS International Vol 4 No 5, Volume 4, Issue 5

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla--When the executive director of a retirement community in Salisbury, NC, arranged to have a mobile mammography van come to the facility to screen the residents and employees, she had to be strongly reminded by her colleagues to visit the van herself. The mammogram Meg Veloff had that day proved to be abnormal and led to early detection and successful treatment of a malignancy.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla--When the executive director of a retirementcommunity in Salisbury, NC, arranged to have a mobile mammographyvan come to the facility to screen the residents and employees,she had to be strongly reminded by her colleagues to visit thevan herself. The mammogram Meg Veloff had that day proved to beabnormal and led to early detection and successful treatment ofa malignancy.

"I learned that I need to make my own health a priority,and all women need to do that," she said at the second annualconference of the Industries' Coalition Against Cancer.

Ms. Veloff spoke at a session chaired by Richard A. Bloch, founderof the H&R Block Corporation and the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation,in which cancer survivors told their stories. She emphasized thaton-site workplace screening is a good approach for finding "sleepers"like herself, that is, women "who know better but are notlooking out for themselves closely first."

Susan L. Scherr, deputy executive director of the National Coalitionfor Cancer Survivorship, is a two-time cancer survivor. Notingthat one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in theirlifetime, Ms. Scherr said, "I've been diagnosed twice, soI feel that I've probably helped somebody else's statistics."

Ms. Scherr's first cancer diagnosis of breast cancer came nearly18 years ago at a time when cancer was not generally discussedopenly. She was worried not only about losing her breast and possiblyher life, but also about having people find out about the illness.

At that time, there was no language for talking about cancer,she said. At work, she told only her supervisor and returned toher job after only 2½ weeks. After treatment, she "didn'tknow what to call myself"--a cancer patient, victim, sufferer--andso decided not to think about it at all. Eleven years later whenshe was diagnosed with an aggressive uterine cancer, the situationwas different. "I could talk about the cancer, and therewas a lot of support," she said.

Because she was told in 1988 that she had less than 2 years tolive, Ms. Scherr quit her job in order to "savor life"and do some of the things she had always wanted to do--travel,ride horses, arrange flowers.

"After 7 months of arranging flowers, riding horseback, takingtrips, spending time with family and friends, I was getting bored,"she said. She went back to work, this time for the National Coalitionfor Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), an organization that she creditswith helping change the language of cancer and give people likeherself a name--cancer survivor.

"Our organization focuses on what to do after you've hadthe diagnosis and your life continues," she said. The NCCSdefines survivorship from the moment of diagnosis, which meansthat anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer is considered asurvivor.

"Whether that survival is for a week, a month, or 25 years,it allows you to think of yourself in a positive manner,"Ms. Scherr said. "And if you should die, you still are survivedthrough your family and friends."

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