Living with Cancer: Four People Who Have Grown with their Uncertainties

He continued enjoying his wife and their 10-month old son. And then…in 2005…he was diagnosed with kidney cancer and told he had nine months to live.

“It felt like being slammed in the head with a lead brick!” He went from believing his life “couldn’t be better” to realizing “it would soon be over.”


Wendy Paris has written a wonderful article in the April, 2015 issue of Psychology Today titled “The New Survivors.”  I have summarized what she has written here.

As Brad’s shock subsided, he snapped back to his usual health-conscious take-charge, beat-the-competition self. When the nine-month mark came, not only was he still alive, a scan showed that his tumors were no longer growing.

The nine months have turned into nine years, and his “terminal” cancer has become something he has learned to live with. More metastases have popped up, which he attacks with surgery, chemotherapy, and drugs. “In some ways it has become like a game of “Whac-A-Mole.”

1.)How is Brad Growing? 

Brad is using his cancer to actually intensify what he loves most: exercising, working, surfing, and raising a family. His cancer has also made him more optimistic and deepened his walk with the Lord.

He’s hardly alone. Modern cancer treatments, along with many other diseases such as AIDS, have radically altered our outlook on ‘terminal diseases.’  “I’ve seen it turn from a death illness into something that people can live with,” says Julia Rowland, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute., and a pioneer of “psycho-oncology” – a new psychological field that addresses the mental and social dimensions of cancer.

Susan Gabar, English Professor Emerita at Indiana University

At the age of 63, Susan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In her book Memoir of a Debulked Woman¸ she describes cancer repeatedly returning, even after 20 weeks of chemotherapy and surgery. She now takes four pills every morning to keep her tumors at bay and has monthly blood tests and regular CT scans. She’s also learning to live with all the side effects, such as losing her hair and being very tired.

2.) How is Susan Growing?

I’m much more aware of my mortality on a minute-by-minute basis than I ever was in my life.  There’s a sense of the ‘preciousness of the moment.’ ”

Keith Bellizzi, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Connecticut. 

Researchers are learning more about the character of people who are ‘managing their diseases for years or even sometimes decades,” says cancer survivor. Keith Bellizzi. “We’re realizing that not only do they deal with the negative aspects of their disease and treatment-related side effects, but there are also positive aspects.

3.) How is Keith Growing?

We’re all TERMINAL.” Bellizzi says. “We’re all dying with each passing day, and there’s no way to get around that.” This realization can really change your priorities and perspective. I try to never forget to tell people I love that I love them. If I get in a fight with a family member, I make sure to fix that before I go to bed. [None of us] knows what’s around the corner.


Living More Intensely

In 2006, Luc Vautmans (a 44-year-old aerospace engineer) had a small melanoma removed from his ear. Seven years later, 40 tumors were found in his lungs, liver, gallbladder and lymph nodes. He was also told he had three months to live. After he spent weeks fired up in anger, he began focusing on being with his family and doing the kinds of high-energy activities he’ d always loved, but even more intensely. “My basic idea was,

“Let the doctors take care of the experimental drugs, and I’LL TAKE CARE OF MY BRAIN.”

4.) How is Luc growing?

Instead of going on one skiing trip a year, he went on seven.

 Back to Brad Slocum

I began this blog with Brad, so I’ll also end it with him. Living with the uncertainties of cancer is never far from his mind, yet he quarantines such thoughts and focuses on the positive. “In all respects, I feel incredibly blessed. People say, ‘Aren’t you mad?’ I’m not. I THINK ABOUT HOW LUCKY I AM TO BE ALIVE INSTEAD OF HOW UNLUCKY I AM TO HAVE CANCER.”