Message from Heal Publisher, Susan McClure.
When I finished cancer treatment in December 1997, I was elated. Finally, I could put all of this cancer nonsense behind me and get back to my “normal” life. I was not going to be defined by this experience. I was a very busy 35-year-old magazine publisher, married, with a 3-year-old son, and didn’t have time to be “forever changed.” I had every intention of getting right back to my previous life. I had magazines to launch, a college fund to build and a marriage to nourish. Cancer was merely a bump in the road … one that would soon be forgotten.
At my first three-month checkup, I told my doctor that my menstrual cycle hadn’t returned. He told me to give it more time. At my second three-month checkup, when I expressed this concern again, I was told that the chemo­therapy could very well have thrown me into early menopause and that more children might not be in my future. “Even if your period were to return,” my doc said, “I wouldn’t recommend getting pregnant for at least five years.”
He went on to tell me that a pregnancy would be very complicated if my cancer returned and that my risk of recurrence was highest during the next five years. “What?” I shouted. “No one told me this!” That meant the earliest I could even consider getting pregnant again was at age 40!
Sitting in that exam room, six months after treatment was over, I began to realize all that cancer had taken from me. First, cancer took part of my breast, then my hair, then any chance of having more children. The first two I could handle, but that third realization was heartbreaking.
I’ve had many more realizations over the past 10 years. Cancer is brutal and ugly. The aftermath of cancer can be just as challenging as the treatment itself. But cancer can also be a great teacher. Facing the prospect of one’s own mortality frees us in a way that I never thought possible. I’m truly awake in this lifetime. My eyes are wide open. I live passionately. I love unconditionally. I’m no longer afraid of dying—I’m only afraid of not living. My son, Ryan, is 12 now, and I treasure every moment I have with him. And I have another child: my 15-year-old stepson, Zach. I’m still publishing magazines, but now I publish titles that educate and inspire those facing life with cancer.
Heal magazine is a labor of love that is given to you by fellow survivors and others who understand the challenges survivors face. It is the very first magazine of its kind in the country—with stories for all survivors.
Last issue we offered you perspective on topics such as fertility and impotence after cancer, the complicated post-cancer landscape of health insurance and the collective power we all have as survivors. We hope that you found laughter, insight and inspiration.
This issue reaches out to help cancer survivors with severe, intractable pain. We provide sound, tested advice on finance and diet. We highlight the American Journal of Nursing’s very practical roadmap for survivors’ future healthcare. And we explore the spirit of survival after breast cancer in a moving photo essay.
We hope that you’ll consider Heal the support group that arrives in your mailbox. As you continue your life’s journey beyond cancer, we will be with you every step of the way.
My eyes are wide open. I live passionately. I love unconditionally. I’m no longer afraid of dying—I’m only afraid of not living.