Newly Diagnosed with Cancer? Remember You’re 'Not a Statistic'

January 11, 2021
Jessica Skarzynski

It's easy to get lost in the statistics of survivorship, but it's important for newly diagnosed patients with cancer to remember that they are not a statistic.

After being diagnosed with stage 1 triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in 2011, and stage 4 metastatic TNBC in 2016, Janice Cowden has learned firsthand that she is not a statistic – and she wants others who may be in a similar situation to know this, too.

In a recent interview with CURE®, Cowden and her husband and caregiver, Rex, spoke about how the facts and figures about survival rates in some cancer types can frighten newly diagnosed individuals, and how Janice made a habit of avoiding them, focusing instead on living in the present day.

“Our cancers are as unique as we are as individuals,” she says. “I think it's important to not look at the statistics and to not just assume that you are that statistic and that you're going to fit in those parameters of those statistics.”

“I realized that what I had to do to make each day good and livable was to plan to live that day.”

Transcription:

I think for me, what I have learned that I think I would share with someone who's newly diagnosed, regardless of their receptor type is that we're not a statistic. And our cancers are as unique as we are as individuals, our response to treatment is also as unique. So, I think it's important to not look at the statistics and to not just assume that you are that statistic and that you're going to fit in those parameters of those statistics.

I'm very fortunate. My oncologists never put a calendar date on me (or my survival). They, neither one of them, have ever said anything about a statistical prognosis for me. First of all, I think they realized that I read and research a lot, and they know that I can read that for myself. But there are so many people, especially newly diagnosed, that I think they automatically assume the worst. They plan to die, rather than planning to live.

And I think for the most part, once I reached a level of, I'm going to call it acceptance with this disease – and that came within the first six to 12 months after being diagnosed – I realized that what I had to do to make each day good and livable was to plan to live that day.

You know, I'm not dead yet. I'm probably not going to die tomorrow, or least not from this disease. And so, I think it's important to wake up and realize that each day is a gift.

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