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Coping with Cancer, Part I

Coping with Cancer, Part I



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Tonya Papanikolas Reporting The American Cancer Society estimates more than 6,000 Utahns will be diagnosed with cancer this year, but compared with 30 years ago, the chances for survival are much better. Patients have a wide variety of resources now to help them cope.

Hearing the words "you have cancer" are almost always a shock.

Sylvia Rickard, Breast Cancer Patient: “I think the first thing that goes through your mind is that you’re afraid you’re going to die.”

But fewer Americans are dying from the disease, thanks to early detection and advances in treatment. Since the mid 1970s the number of patients surviving cancer five years after their diagnosis has increased 14-percent. Prostate cancer has jumped the highest, to a 99-percent survival rate. Testicular, breast, Hodgkin lymphoma, rectum and colon cancers have also seen significant increases.

While cancer survival rates are changing, so are the ways people choose to cope with the disease. In years past more people shied away from talking about a cancer diagnosis, even with family. Sylvia Rickard says her mother was one of them.

**Cancer Survival Rates After Five Years**
Diagnosed 1974-76Diagnosed 1995-2000
All Cancers Prostate Testicular Breast Hodgkin Lymphoma Rectum Colon

50%
67%
79%
75%
71%
49%
50%

64%
99%
96%
88%
85%
64%
63%

Sylvia Rickard: “In her generation, in a Hispanic family, you don't really discuss cancer." But the stigma has diminished. When Rickard was diagnosed, she started attending a breast cancer support group. She says talking about the illness helped eliminate fear.

Sylvia Rickard: “You realize that other people are going through something much worse than you're going through, and they're surviving it. So that you gives you the strength to keep going."

And more resources are now available to those who want to discuss their concerns. At the Huntsman Cancer Institute it's often recommended patients see a counselor when they're diagnosed.

Michele Dabrowski, Huntsman Cancer Institute Social Worker: “We try to work on open communication within the family, and a sharing of what they’re each feeling.”

Lisa Albright, Cancer Patient: “I really had a hard time at the beginning expressing fears and concerns to anybody, cause I didn't want to show any weakness."

But she says counseling has allowed her to express her emotions in a safe environment, and couples therapy has taught both her and her husband the importance of communicating.

Lisa Albright: “Derek will just say, ‘Hey, I'm over here. You're leaving me alone over here. I'm feeling very lonely.’ That's how he tells me, 'You're shutting me out.'"

For those who may be a little more private about their emotions, there's options that give more indirect support and encouragement. Sjon Colby attends at book club at the Cancer Wellness House for cancer patients and their families.

Sjon Colby, Cancer Patient: “My values are on things like relationships and friendships, and they have a great deal of value. And that’s part of this book club.”

The club also gives patients a chance to focus on their hobbies and interests, something else patients seem to be doing more of as they live longer with a disease that's not as frightening as it once was.

Friday night we'll show you some cancer resources that some patients say actually make them feel better while they're going through treatment.

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