Prognosis Can Mean Choosing Your Own Path

April 29, 2020
Kim Johnson
Kim Johnson

Kim is a nursing student who is hoping to find her place amongst the phenomenal oncology nurses and doctors who cared for her sister. She loves reading, volunteering and enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.

Part of the prognosis is often what the patient brings to it, the journey ahead of them that only they can travel.

Late last year, Olivia Newton-John publicly shared that she has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. This marks her third battle with cancer, and what makes this time different is that unlike that last two battles, she has chosen to not hear about her survival statistics.

When I read about this, it took me back to when my sister was diagnosed. Initially, one of the first questions that both my parents and sister asked was if she was going to die. In all honesty, I didn't ask that question and looking back I am not sure why. I don't know if it was because I had so many other fears or because I was numb to hearing the words that my sister did.

There were times during her journey, such as when she refracted that I did think about how much time we may have had. Those moments though were fleeting in comparison to the other thoughts and emotions that were cycling through my head. Looking back at the entire experience, I do better understand why I think somebody may choose to do as Ms. Newton-John has done.

A cancer diagnosis is hard enough for somebody and their families to hear. There is an immense amount of fear that comes with the diagnosis, and the prognosis often only adds to that fear. Looking back, I think had we known how bad it was, we may have chosen different treatment options, and I can say with certainty that I would have done more research and asked more questions than I did.

While my sister was lucky and did gain remission from cancer, that is not the case for many patients who are diagnosed at a late stage. Patients sometimes undergo endless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation with the hope of remission when in truth, remission is not attainable.

My sister endured numerous painful complications from her many treatments, and I have regrets from what she experienced, even though remission was gained. I do often find myself thinking about how much harder it would be had she gone through all she did only to pass from cancer.

While I am not sure that anybody is ready to die, I think that Ms. Newton-John has an understanding of what lies ahead of her. My sister was 27 when diagnosed, and she did not have a comprehension of what cancer would bring. Even when faced with death, she was anything but accepting of it. Both vastly different scenarios and the thing is, that is cancer.

When it comes to cancer, there is no right or wrong choice that one could make. This extends to more than knowing how much time one may have left to nearly every decision that comes with a diagnosis. Many can give their input and critiques, but enduring cancer is something that nobody understands until they are going through it. Even those who have been through cancer do not know what you are going through or the decisions that you are facing.

Every person walks a different journey when it comes to cancer, and chooses their own path.

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