Health Break | Published April 9, 2007 | Written by Tara Baney, RN, MS, AOCN

The Other Side of Cancer

With over 10 million cancer survivors in the United States, most people know of someone affected by cancer. It is a disease that touches everyones life directly or indirectly, including mine. For the last fifteen years, I have been blessed with the chance to work with people affected by cancer.

In my work, I have been asked: "How can you work with people with cancer?" "Isn't that depressing and sad?" My response is: "Yes, there are sad times, but I find reassurance in knowing I am able to help people through one of the hardest times of their life."

Many times I have cried with patients and families, but there are times I have laughed with them, too. Cancer is no longer a death sentence as it had been years ago. People are able to recover and live functional, pleasurable lives. Most people would only think of cancer as bad, but I have stories from patients of the good things that have come from their diagnosis. Whether it is reuniting with an estranged family member or refocusing on the value of life—a diagnosis of cancer has had a positive impact on the lives of some.

I remember caring for a woman who was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to other parts of her body. She had multiple problems due to her disease, but she only allowed herself 5 minutes of self-pity a day. She then only focused on the good and the positive. Although she died several years ago from her disease, I often think of her and her unyielding strength.

During my nursing career, I cared for young men with testis cancer. It was always a pleasure to see those who had been treated come back to our clinic to share the celebrations of their life—a new job, completing school, a new wife, a new child. Knowing that these young men continued to live quality lives even after a devastating diagnosis was a great reassurance and joy to those of us they touched.
These people have made an impression in my life and their strength deserves to be shared - inspiring and reminding all of us how precious life is. My patients are my heroes. I learn something from each and every one of them. They are constantly reminding me of hope, love, kindness and courage.

Cancer will touch all of our lives in some way. Remember that cancer is not a death sentence. Share lifes celebrations and hope, and love as you never have before. As a partner in the Penn State Cancer Institute, Mount Nittany Medical Center brings world-class, comprehensive cancer treatment to our region.

Tara Baney is the Clinical Nurse Specialist for the Penn State Cancer Institute at Mount Nittany Medical Center.