Cancer Gifts: Reaching a Milestone

May 14, 2019
Kathy LaTour
Kathy LaTour

Kathy LaTour is a breast cancer survivor, author of The Breast Cancer Companion and co-founder of CURE magazine. While cancer did not take her life, she has given it willingly to educate, empower and enlighten the newly diagnosed and those who care for them.

I hear friends talk about feeling old and resisting the natural process of aging. “Old” for me was a dream and a wish. Now I rejoice in every wrinkle as affirmation that I am getting older. Yahoo. I can’t wait to be 70.

This summer I am going to be 70. It's a significant milestone in anyone's life, but and it does make me take pause and look back at my life.

For many of you, cancer is a new or relatively new experience. I was diagnosed 32 years ago at age 37, and if you are wondering why I am still thinking and writing about it, here is the deal.

Many of us only spend a few months in treatment for something that will, possibly, affect us for the rest of our lives. I was diagnosed at the beginning of the recognition that survivorship is a distinct part of the cancer experience. Today, cancer centers are expected to offer survivorship care plans at the end of treatment as well as programs to help patients deal with social, emotional and practical issues of cancer.

This has become my area of research, concern and expertise and we have come a long way. But we also have a long way to go. One young woman I know was treated for a sarcoma at age 19. It involved a year of treatment and, while she Is now In her mid 40s, It took her until her mid 30s to resolve her cancer experience emotionally. Last week at my insistence, she visited a cardiologist to get a baseline and it turns out she has cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition.

This is one reason I keep researching survivor issues as I deal with my own, mild congestive heart failure and neuropathy.

Luckily for me, it only took me a few years of fear and misery after my diagnosis to realize I needed help. Having a one-year-old motivated me to find help so I could be the mother I wanted to be. It took me to a place that allowed me to heal into my cancer.

The birthdays that I had always dreaded were now celebrations that I had made it another year. This is not how I felt before cancer when, with 40 approaching and a new baby, I spent my time feeling like the mommy track had derailed my life and I would never get it back.

Now I rejoice in every wrinkle as affirmation that I am getting older. Yahoo. I can’t wait to be 70.

I hear friends talk about feeling old and the resisting the natural process of aging. “Old” for me was a dream and a wish. Sometimes I want to say, “Hey, you want to feel young and appreciate every day?”

They’ll ask, “How?”

I will reply, “Get cancer.”

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