Living With

Living with Cancer: The Survivor Monologues

Beth Brophy Health Guide May 22, 2007
  • While I turn often to New York magazine when I need advice on where to eat or shop or what museum to visit when I’m on my way to Manhattan, I don’t often find the cover stories as compelling as the one in this week’s issue. The theme is “The Survivor Monologues: Life After Diagnosis.” The cover art itself, 143 cancer patients and survivors who gathered in Central Park, sends a powerful message: there are millions of us out there, of various ages and races and shapes and professions, living and coping after cancer.

    The longest piece, by one of the magazine’s own editors, Jon Gluck, was the most moving. He tells how he was diagnosed, at age 37, with bone marrow cancer, and the toll it took on him, and his family, as seen from his vantage point now, three years later. While his story is universal—he’s a young, healthy, newly-married man, the father of a seven-month old daughter, then he gets cancer and his life changes in an instant—he tells it in a compelling way.

    The other pieces are short profiles. Among them: The 92-year old retired lawyer who insisted on having surgery to treat his stomach cancer last year, although his doctors thought he was too old to bother. I admire his feistiness: “Florida is a place I wouldn’t mind going after I die, but not while I’m alive.”

    The 36-year old breast cancer survivor who writes about how she has “always been in love with her breasts,” and what it’s like to live with a new fake one. The unlucky man, 56, who in the past decade, suffered thyroid cancer, prostate cancer twice, and kidney cancer. The 38 year- old newlywed who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, had her healthy eggs removed, and now is the mother to a daughter carried by her sister.

    Rather than being a big pity party, these profiles in courage are both inspiring and life-affirming. The underlying message is hopeful: so many of us get cancer, go through treatment, then come out on the other side and have to adjust our lives to the new reality of living with cancer, even if we seem to be fine. And also, there’s something about hearing other people’s cancer stories that makes your own your own sound a little less scary. In any case, I recommend taking a look at this feature.