PIVOT and life after cancer
Congressional District: MO06
Issues and Challenges
Becky has encountered: Access to Expert Providers, Access to Medicine, Gaslighting, Invisible Illness, Job Insecurity / Loss
After 15 years as a pharmaceutical scientist, I quit my job due to side effects from my breast cancer treatment. My cancer treatment saved my life, but the life I returned to after 5 months of chemotherapy and 4 surgeries, was unrecognizable. I was relatively young, just 37, when I was diagnosed with cancer and God willing had many decades of life left to live. The focus for a year was to survive cancer but no one prepared me for how to live AFTER cancer.
My hair slowly grew back, my hands became less swollen and less painful, and my fingernails eventually lost their discoloration and no longer threatened to fall off with every minor touch. I no longer LOOKED ‘sick’ but I still suffered from ‘unseen’ effects of cancer treatment such as, chemo-brain, muscle weakness, peripheral neuropathy, early menopause, etc.
My oncologist was all over getting me the best treatment and handling any immediate side effects of cancer treatment like hand and foot syndrome, nose bleeds, nausea, pain, and skin reactions; but complaints of the lingering effects of the toxic chemicals used to save my life were not given as much attention.
It was not until I joined Patient and Investigator Voices Organizing Together (PIVOT), a patient cancer research advocacy group, and talked with other cancer patients that I found help and validation for the after- effects of my cancer treatment. I have now since added speech therapy, cancer rehabilitation, and physical therapy to my long list of routine doctor’s appointments.
I am incredibly thankful for the life saving treatment that I received for my cancer, but until we can find less toxic treatment methods, I would like to see more research focused on navigating life after cancer treatment and the consequences of cancer treatment on the cancer survivor’s quality of life and health.
My Motivation and Inspiration
After navigating my cancer diagnosis and treatment, I began to view life a little differently. My life is a gift that I would like to use to serve others. I feel that many problems in our world can be solved by showing love to ourselves and others.