Cancer and an Altered Self-Image
INTERESTING STUFF – 10 February 2018

When You are Well Again

”...the thing is, once something goes wrong, forever after you know that something CAN go wrong. Up until then, we're all blessed with kind of an ignorant sense of invincibility...

“None of us know what's going to hit us out of the blue, or when, but once we get winged by something, I think, we are all a little bit more fearful...

“The passage of time helps, and with enough time, we regain some of that feeling of invincibility.

Think of today's post as an extension, a follow-up to Wednesday's which was little more than a jump-start for the many thoughtful, useful and inspiring reader comments about what comes after recovery from a serious disease.

The quotation above is one of them, left by TGB reader Patty-in-New-York who nailed my pre-cancer sense of invincibility. Until that diagnosis last June, I thought I understood what it is like to face a life-threatening illness.

Wrong. I didn't have a clue.

The long weeks of recovery from surgery taught me about disability. About giving over my independence to the kind people who helped me during that time with the everyday, ordinary necessities of living. About constraints on the physical things I could do. And about how those new limitations gave me a smaller world view than I had before or want to have.

Isn't it interesting how, when the doctor hands you a terrible diagnosis or an outside force, an accident for example, leaves you with a broken hip or worse, you are plunged into the world of the sick in no more than a minute, but it can take weeks and months after you have healed to recover your place in the world of the healthy.

Or, as Patty-in-New-York suggests, you arrive at a different kind of normal. I doubt I will ever feel invincible again but since I wrote Wednesday's post (on Tuesday), I received an unexpected boost toward whatever my new normal will be.

On Wednesday morning, I met with the surgeon who performed the Whipple Procedure on me in June. As regular readers know, on Monday this week, a CT scan had matched earlier blood tests in showing my body to be clean of cancer.

A good-sized part of me had never expected that and as I mentioned on Wednesday, I wanted to celebrate but somehow wasn't feeling it. That changed when the surgeon told me in person, face-to-face, that there is no cancer, “Go live your life,” he said.

Although I didn't know it until that moment, it was important to me to hear that sentence out loud, not in a written scan analysis. To be reminded again that the remarkable doctor who, with his great knowledge of pancreatic cancer and his excellent surgical team, spent 12 hours on his feet last June, 12 hours that saved my life.

After meeting with him, I wept and I rejoiced and I had lunch with a friend and then I went home and celebrated by dancing to Joe Cocker singing live in a 1992 concert, Cry Me a River.

It will take a little more time but now I know I'm going to be just fine.


So happy for your news and confirmation from the surgeon. Your determination through the ups and downs have contributed no less than your surgeon and caregivers combined. Congrats to you!

Yessss! Congratulations, Ronni.

I'm slowly reading the wonderful book by Viktor Frankl "Man's Search for Meaning," which is his personal vision about how to live, regardless of circumstances. In this particular section I'm currently reading, he speaks of how it is through suffering that man is able to experience a depth and realization of oneself not usually available otherwise.

This he considers a gift, a golden opportunity.

Congratulations, Ronni, you've been instrumental throughout this episode of your life. Continue on, Lady, and thank you again for keeping us walking and running, while hoping, despairing and cheering, alongside.

Congratulations. Celebrate each day.

Glad that you are getting the full realization of the miracle of recovery. The problem we have is how to keep it. The goal is not to restore that sense of "invincibility" that we all had as young people. We know better. But how maintain that grateful stance that you have one more day, even one more hour, to live this life, whatever it may bring. Too soon, the miracle of recovery becomes the expected status quo and we take our miracle for granted.

Well, I have an app for that. It was written about in the Atlantic Monthly in January, 2018 and it's called WeCroak. Five times a day, your phone will send you a simple message "Remember you are going to die." If you choose, you can swipe onto a quotation that relates to the "Remember..." statement. That's all the app offers. It's simply a modern way to follow the Buddhist suggestion that focusing on death at least 5 times a day tends to sharpen your appreciation for life and for this present moment.

I've used the app for about a month, and most of the time, just looking at the now familiar line "Remember you are going to die" gently prods me out of my normal tendency to wallow in the past or worry about the future. I think instead of what is my present status. Many times I have a few minutes of gratefulness for what I can still do (I'm 77 years old and have lots of ailments). And that maybe it's time to dance!

Elated to hear of the excellent confirming news, Ronni.

What special words..."go out and live your life!"

Big smiles from me today.

Great post and comments, thank you all,

So very happy for you. I’ve silently been reading and not commenting throughout your ordeal. I really admire you. Thank you for Time Goes By.

So happy for you, Ronni! So great that you CAN get back to living in the good sense. In relation to the invincible thread, my youngest son (now 42 years old) just received the "you are fired" message from his job - the first time this has happened to him and I believe he might have felt he was invincible - that, that wouldn't ever happen to him. He is processing the news, but it devastated him and "told" him that he is not competent............not a good message for someone who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. On a personal note re the invincible thread, I had 2 melanoma spots removed 2 years ago and I now know that there is a possibility for melanoma .............. something that I had never thought of before.

What wonderful news! I am so happy for you.

You’ve had excellent care, no doubt. But I commend you for doing your part. You’ve followed directions, made all your appointments, taken all your meds.

You’ve been in a tunnel, and now you have emerged in sunlight. May you have a beautiful day, today.

Love love love love LIVE.. so much joy in your news and your place in time.
Big Devonshire hugs. xxx

Yes, that's the best any of us can do...go live our lives.


One of my best friends died of pancreatic cancer, so I'm delighted on her behalf to hear of someone beating that terrible disease. And I'm glad on my behalf because I love reading your blog! And, of course, I'm delighted on your behalf too(!)

Cry me a River, indeed!

Wonderful, wonderful, Ronni. I think I just fell in love with your surgeon. '“Go live your life,” he said.'

As others have noted, those words are wonderfully useful words. They are the words that many of us would have been wise to have thought to have told our kids when they became independent.

Filling the surgeon's prescription should be top priority for us all.

"Go live your life." I'd have become a blubbering idiot upon hearing that from my surgeon. I got chills just reading it. Four little words with such huge impact. Hugs, Ronni, for your wonderful, wonderful news.

The quote on my diary today :
"Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.
by Jim Morrison.
Wonderful news Ronni :)

Thank you for sharing your doctor’s magnificent orders! And for sharing —bravely, openly the often terrifying, hideous, painful steps along your journey from first feeling yukky till going on and living your life right now! Xx

I'm so glad for you, dearest, most generous Ronni. And you are fine, and you will be fine, we are all fine, with our gimps and aches and terrors, and living on the edge moment to moment. We are fine in our pain, in our wheelchairs, in our solitude and loneliness, in those frightening night moments or hours.

Dance on, Ronni, you are a lovely wonder.

Wonderful news indeed! Couldn't be happier for you.

"Go live your life."...must have been music to your ears.

I can hear a collective sigh of relief from all who have been following your journey. Wishing you continued good health.

Like every one else, I am ecstatic about your good news. It must feel like you have been released from the horror factory.

I think many of us can appreciate the fact that anything can happen today; that we aren't invinciable, but until our body fails us we don't really believe it.

Whether we feel that we are invinciable or give it no thought , we just go on living as if today will be like any other.

I am fortunate to have escaped the dreaded cancer diagnosis I pretty sure that I would continue to dread the possibility of a recurrance for the rest of my life.

Unbelievably good news! I hop you will be able to live as if you believe it.

A prayer of thanksgiving tonight at shul. Hallelujah and amen!

Hooray Ronni. Wonderful post.

Yay! It's so good that you can rejoice in your return to health, but, perhaps, not to invincibility. I call it "The Beast", and it lurks forever more just around the next corner, waiting to hack off a piece of healthy life again. It happened to me again and now I'm struggling in a painful trip back to health, but I'll get there too. So, YAY ! for you! May you dodge the Beast for a long, long time!

Wow! So happy for you, Ronni! Our TGB community needs you to keep us informed and inspired! I hardly think about my bout with colon cancer anymore, but I have had a number of colonoscopies with no issues so maybe that's why I don't. However going through that scare resulted in me changing my career (back into teaching) which turned out to be a wonderful part of my life before I retired! And I am STILL "teaching" as a volunteer with be SMART, saving kids' lives!

Wonderful! What joyful news!

Just Wow!

Yes your life will be forever changed. Each day will become a gift. You will never take your days for granted again. Things will look brighter and more precious than you could have imagined.

In a way, we who have come back from a kind of death sentence, have been given a gift (although a backhanded and difficult one). At our age, I am 78, we are starting over with everything ahead of us.

Smell the roses 🌹

So grateful to read about your "full" recovery. The experience of a life threatening disease can open your eyes and heart to the fragility of life. Be well!

Sitting at my computer, rocking out to Joe Cocker - YAY!

This is just wonderful news. I'm happy for you but very happy for me as well!

My friend's husband lived over 20 more years after his Whipple surgery. So glad to hear you can enjoy your life again.

So wonderful! And this community is the BEST!

For almost 70 years I led a charmed life which gave me the sense of invincibility that you mentioned. While friends and family discussed their meds and surgical procedures, I had nothing to contribute. When each of my two sisters died at 69 it didn't seem to have anything to do with me.

But two minor events last year changed that - relatively minor non-elective surgery and a fall halfway down our stairway. Suddenly I am overly careful, staying home from activities I previously attended , clinging to the bannister, afraid to walk outside when there are minor snowfalls or icy puddles, fear when the dog pulls a little on a walk.

I am hoping that when spring arrives I shake this off.

Just returned home and could not wait to check back here today. The very best news I have had in a long, long time. Wishing you everything you hope for in the next chapters of your life - new and improved - indeed you are!~ Hugs & Love. Regina

What more can be said -- but wonderful news!

I'm really happy for you. Life is good.

What blessed words, “Go live your life.” I am so happy for you!

So happy for you...

Congratulations, both on your full recovery from such a dire disease and for your continuing your blog to keep us followers up to date on your progress, physically and mentally. Thank you Ronni, you are a blessing to us all.

So very happy for you Ronni. Great life affirming news.

Life is all the sweeter now. Precious moments. I had a near death experience and it changes everything. For the better.


Joe Cocker! They just don't make them like that any more. Watching the video reminded me of what I love most about black women: their complete lack of embarassment about fat. And such a perfect song for dancing your joy about once again being able to just live your life. 👯 🎶🍷🍾

I'm sure this must have felt like a very long and arduous journey for you, but it strikes me as remarkable that you have already reached this place and received that awesome pronouncement and directive from your surgeon. It has been a privilege to have followed you throughout this experience. Your courage and strength have been an inspiration!

I'm inexpressibly happy for you, Ronni.

Just a simple and heartfelt congratulations on your success.
Go and live it up.

I'm so happy for you and your recovery.

You deserve a parade. Wish I had the power to de-tRumpify that idea and have one in your honor instead. The Orange Apparition (aka Cadet Bone Spurs--I love that appellation!) has done absolutely nothing to earn a parade, especially since he'll make it all about him, not the military he would be purporting to "honor".

Wonderful words to hear! We see statistics quoted for so many things as you did, too, relative to survival with your initial diagnosis. Your outcome does suggest we can be wise to keep those numbers and percentages in perspective among the decision-making factors we consider toward our medications, treatment choices and expectations. (Important to keep in mind on all research, social and political studies, too). Those figures can sometimes be given excessive influence and color our thinking with fear, dictate the language we tell ourselves and what we believe.

Also, important to note your age did not deter the path you followed as I recall some of your early writings in which you might have intimated, or I interpreted, that at the age you are now, such a diagnosis and survival odds would have prompted you to forgo the route you followed. Glad you made the choice you did. I had two friends, a younger man 20 years ago and recently an older woman in her early 80’s, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer who survived only three months. I’ll look forward to your future commentary here. Hugs to you! Keep laughing!

So, so happy for your news. Carried your health in my heart everyday from reading your diagnosis. Lost others along the way; they went on as we all must. But Ronni, you are a tough one! Be well my friend.

The best news ever!
Love your informative great blog.

Enjoy your new lease on life. What better place than New York City with spring just around the corner.
Thank you for giving me a place to read thoughtful words as well as a place to to place my words.
Last but not least - Thank you for Joe Cocker! Very different from Julie London's Cry me a River which I also love.

You fight and fight and fight and SOMETIMES...... you WIN!!! Congratulations! I can only imagine the mixed up strange and wonderful feelings you must be feeling.

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