According to the American Cancer Society, there were over 8 million deaths from cancer in 2013.
Those statistics are startling, but they don't say anything about the personal realities of cancer. Only people who have lived with it, fought it, or who are living with and fighting it now can shed any kind of light on what cancer is actually like.
When cancer patients on Reddit were asked "what's something about cancer that most people don't know about?" they supplied some startling answers.
Everyone should take the time to read this and hopefully gain some understanding. Here are 8 things about cancer that no one talks about, but should.
1. Life after cancer.
"You always think that it's never going to end. Well, that's what I thought. But the hardest part for me is returning to normal life. Picking up where you left off is tough. Especially if your treatment was long and you were diagnosed as a teen. Mine lasted three years and still to this day I can't figure out how to get normal life going again."
2. The not-knowing, even after remission.
"Here's something else to think about - remission isn't the magical, celebratory day that you might think it would be. When my treatment ended, this is the gist of what my doctor told me: "you have responded well to the treatment. Your lymph nodes have all decreased in size significantly. We will continue to monitor you closely and follow up with scans every six months". He never said "you are in remission", "you are cured", "you've done it, now give me a high five you brave warrior" or any of the things I had hoped to hear. You're always left wondering whether you've really made it out of the woods or not."
3. You don't just miraculously "recover."
"I was diagnosed at 17, a year after my treatments ended and I'm still struggling while everyday it's "why aren't you better yet" or "why haven't you done x yet". Its rough and a it's true that a lot of people don't realize you can't just spring back."
4. Sometimes, the battle will be lost.
"The drugs, if there are any, are to extend the life not save it. Drugs stop working after a while, the cancer figures out a way to beat the drug. Then you try another drug, until the cancer beats that one.
People tell me, "you'll beat it", are not understanding. I look and feel great so far, so it may be harder for them to comprehend that I'm literally dying soon."
5. Treatments may come at an unexpected cost.
"Chemo can ruin your sex life. Most people know that prostate cancer can leave you impotent, but the treatments for others can cause problems, or just leave you incapable of doing more than lying there.
Australia even had an anti-smoking ad a few years back that was basically 'smoking will give you lung cancer, and lung cancer will ruin your sex life.' "
6. The side-effects from chemo are more than just hair loss and nausea.
"Mouth sores. Chemo wipes your immune system out and since you have all that bacteria in your mouth... I guess it wouldn't be plural sores, it was more like one large sore that covered the entirety of the inside of my mouth. Had to be fed via IV and could only 'eat' ice chips every now and then."
7. 'Chemo brain' is truly a nightmare, even years after treatment.
"It's been 7 years since I was in treatment. Chemo brain is the worst. I mis-read details as though I'm dyslexic but I'm not, I have trouble retaining things told to me on the fly. I cannot get started in the morning until I have coffee - like can't even dress or eat. It sucks because while I wasn't able to finish college due to my 10 year on and off again battle, I am college-educated.
... It should be over, but it is never really over. Life just continues to move on a sideways trajectory. Never forward - and it has everything to do with how the effects of the treatment have just stayed with me."
"While going through chemo, I would lose my train of thought mid sentence. After finishing, it got better, but not completely. I have a terrible short term memory now. It's never been the same."
8. People sometimes react in less-than-compassionate ways.
"You think everyone is going to be caring and understanding, and most are. But there are all other kinds of reactions. Fear being a big one. Doom and gloom. The weirdest was the coworker that completely, utterly, suddenly stopped talking to me for an entire year. Not a word - he would actively avoid being near me. Then after that year, he started talking to me again like nothing happened.
I'm very comfortable talking about my experience with cancer, and find it cathartic. However, most people freak out, at least a little bit, if I bring it up. It is Voldemort to them."