For Cancer Survivors Much Has Been Given

November 20, 2020
Jane Biehl Ph.D.
Jane Biehl Ph.D.

Jane is a ten-year survivor of a very rare form of cancer Myelodysplastic Syndrome. She has enjoyed several exciting careers including a librarian, counselor, teacher, and writer. She loves to write about surviving cancer, overcoming hearing loss, and her hearing ear service dog, Sita.

With the extra time we have, cancer survivors can make a lasting impact in their communities with others on their cancer journey.

“Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves: and we can shirk neither. “- Teddy Roosevelt.

I had heard this quote before, but when our Ohio governor recited this recently, it really hit home with me. He was using it in the context of doing our part to stop the spread of the horrible coronavirus. He keeps saying, repeatedly, each of us needs to do our part by wearing masks, socially distancing and avoiding large parties. He also said we all have to participate to be successful. With my being immune-compromised I figure that I cannot be too careful.

In therapy, we have what we call an “AHA” moment. This refers to a breakthrough, when a client realizes why he or she feels the way they do, or continually repeats damaging behaviors.I am applying it to me here because I had a moment of realization.

I feel strongly that I have been given the precious gift of being alive for ten long years, after being diagnosed with a blood cancer. I do know how rare this is, and my doctor has confirmed it. I lost three close friends from cancer in one terrible year, and none of them survived past a few months. I miss them terribly and I will always feel survivor’s guilt. However, since my diagnosis, I have felt I should give back and do what I can for others. I have spent a lifetime volunteering, and my mission of assisting others with this insidious disease of cancer is of utmost importance to me.

The difference is now I can’t do the same activities I did before because my immune system has been compromised and my blood counts remain low. I cannot be part of the Survivor to Survivor program sponsored by CURE, where cancer survivor’s visit and support newly diagnosed people. I believe so strongly in this program and was initially disappointed. I pondered what I could do, and my fantastic oncologist had the answer. She encouraged me to write and I have been doing this for several years.

In addition to writing articles for several cancer publications, I wrote a book about my cancer journey. I am the worst artist in the world but didn’t do a terrible drawing for art gallery of MDS survivors.YouTube is a huge help when one is a horrible artist! I also meet with people frequently one on one to try and help with their cancer journeys.

One of the best things that happened was when I was invited to be on the Patient Advisory Committee at my local cancer center, and met wonderful cancer survivors. These people faithfully are a part of the Survivor to Survivor program, and their faces light up when they talk about it. Some of them, like me, encourage others on Facebook and social media. We have all had invaluable input into the design and set up of our new cancer center to be built in the next couple of years. Unfortunately, this has temporarily been stopped with COVID-19, but will resume whenever there is a vaccine. Even so, I am still inspired by the wonderful people I have met with this endeavor to continue to help fellow patients.

I am excited at every one of these opportunities. Sometimes when we feel sick and weak, it is hard to go on, but those of us that have been given so much need to give back. The great thing I have discovered is that we often receive more inspiration, love and friendship than we ever give.

Life is funny like that, and I am glad!

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