Is Life harder as a Survivor or as a Patient?

Is Life harder as a survivor or as a patient? Now I see these in chat rooms and survivor support groups as a question. How do you differentiate the two? It’s really pretty hard because you go through a couple of different stages as a patient when you get diagnosed. And then another once you go through the experience of treatment and able to come out the other side. Now you have a slew of new issues to deal with as a survivor.

BW photo of mountains and lake with text "whats harder? Being a survivor or patient?"
Is Life harder as a survivor or as a patient?

And that’s why it’s hard to justify the two.

I think straight off the bat, I believe it’s a little bit harder as a survivor. Life is harder because life is just hard.

Even before going through cancer and even before my diagnosis when I was healthy, life was just hard. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge into the depths of my own being and dealing with my id, ego, and super Ego from a psychology standpoint. It was really a difficult process to know and learn.

Basically, I had no clue.

At this point, I wasn’t really in a position to know anything about myself or really care about doing any sort of self-help or conscious growth. When you’re diagnosed, you go into this fear category simply because you’re dealing with the stigma of cancer and also dealing with all the unknowns that come along with it. For most people, the stigma of cancer doesn’t necessarily mean a death sentence. But when you hear the word cancer, you think of death.

You end up thinking about the worst-case scenario and thinking of your mortality. And that’s where it can be really hard to get over. Fortunately, these days with the technologies that we have, things are getting better from a survivorship standpoint being able to survive cancer. It’s not always going to be rainbows and candy. But for those of us that do make it as a survivor, we have to deal with life as a survivor.

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Now as a patient, when you’re going through treatment, you get waited on hand and foot. You are constantly being helped by a caregiver, by all the nurses and doctors. So you have this barrage of extra help going on. But here’s a lot of people that don’t have that because of insurance issues and other outside forces that make it really difficult for them to have that.

Is Life harder as a survivor or as a patient?

Some may not have support. There may not be a support group even to deal with helping a patient get through the cancer diagnosis. So that is an unfortunate side effect of our current health system right now. Let’s just hope and pray that some things will start changing. As a patient, we are catered on hand and foot. We have comfy chairs to relax during the infusions. Sure, We have to go through surgeries, we have to go through a lot of different testing and we do feel like that test animal. But we all really deal with fear. The fear of not knowing. And this goes both ways for a survivor and as a patient. We don’t know because we’ve never been through the experience.

And as we go through the experience, we get a little bit more comfortable with it. and understanding. For the most part, as long as we are dealing with the treatment in a good way, then there’s the reality of the survivorship side of cancer. Once you are in the clear, so to say, you either live in remission or the oncologists deem that you are cancer-free. I don’t like using the word cured. But even so, now you are dealing with the entire gamut of feelings and emotions that come along with Survivorship. It looks like I’m able to live another decent amount of time, and not have to deal with my mortality right now.

And that’s where it gets really tough because you have the first realization of, wow, I’m alive.

This is awesome! And then things start to sink in. You begin to learn more about what it means to be a survivor. Learning the statistics of cancer Reoccurrence. Trying to just understand this whole entire process. This entire experience that you went through and it’s really difficult to grasp and wrap your head around. It takes time and it’s really important to start working on the mental health side by seeing specialists and counselors and start working through this experience.

It doesn’t happen overnight!

This is something that I’m still working on. Eight and a half years into it as a survivor. It’s a constant process, and I think professional help is something that’s really, really key! This is a huge need and helps get you through the fear and makes survivorship a lot easier.

Is Life harder as a survivor or as a patient? Survivorship means figuring out what your life’s meaning is and the responsibility that comes along with it. Just because we now survivors, doesn’t mean that we can or should become complacent and stop trying to be the best that we can. It’s almost a moral issue when it comes to not doing better for yourself. And not trying to help people that have been through a similar experience. What you have learned with cancer is incredibly valuable to people that have and are going through it right now. And for you to share your story and to talk about it really makes it easier for those people that are struggling right now. To have someone that they can relate to. I know for a fact that I had a really hard time with this because there was no one for me to talk to.

There were no support groups…

in the area where I was living. There was a small group of people that could really help and most of them lived in Denver. So it was really hard for me to really figure this out and I had to figure this out on my own. And so now that we have support groups on Facebook and there are questions being asked on Reddit and Cora. We have an opportunity to share our story and because this is where people are going because the medical industry has not been able to help us survivors deal with this problem that is going on. There should be a fourth stage to the cancer stages as it’s kind of deemed. The first three are the initiation, promotion, and progression. The fourth should be survivorship!

There needs to be a fourth element about cancer survivorship and helping people deal with the aftermath of cancer. That’s what drives me so nuts about this, and that’s why I’ve taken upon myself to really do some work in trying to help other people out there. I’ve been spending time in support groups and threads to share my experience and let people know that they are not alone. The experience they’re going through is normal. There are ways to start helping and bettering yourself through other’s experiences and to really grow as a survivor. That’s why I brought up life’s meaning and responsibility because I believe they go hand in hand with each other. As you grow and figure out what your life’s meaning is, you start asking the tough questions like what is your “Why”.

But you have to learn this.

I mean, why do you get up in the morning? Why do you want to do something that might better yourself? And maybe other people and survivors? These are questions you need to ask yourself. And as you do that, you start becoming more and more open to the reality of helping other people. You go through all the different stages of psychology. Building, I believe is the best way to put it. And as you build, you become more confident! You become more aware! Your responsibility grows because of helping other people. And it makes you feel good deep in your heart. And that’s why it’s really important. Once you take on responsibility, then the entire meaning begins to make sense to you.

This isn’t something that you just are given. By learning this, you are learning positive skills that will help you through the rest of your life. That right there is why it is harder to live as a survivor then as a patient, as a patient, you’re given everything. As a survivor, you have to learn everything. And as you learn, you start figuring yourself out. It all starts to make sense.

I believe that’s the best way to put it. If you have any questions, hit me in the comment section below. I’m constantly tweaking on my theories and working on better ways to explain this because I feel it’s really important.

About the Author

Todd Franzen is a Stage 4 Lymphoma Survivor. Living in Breckenridge Colorado

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