Cancer as a chronic disease

13 August 2018 | Renata Gortan

Daffodil Day Ambassador Renata Gortan shares her breast cancer experience in her blog, When Life Goes Tits Up. In 2015, at just 32, the popular Daily Telegraph journalist and food reporter was diagnosed with grade three, invasive, HER1 positive breast cancer.

Chemotherapy, surgery and radiation followed suit. Two years ago, after Renata completed active treatment, she wrote about the common misconception that life simply returns to normal after cancer:

“One of the major issues when dealing with cancer is that it doesn’t have an end point. Even being classified cancer free or in remission doesn’t mean you have the all clear. It affects other parts of your life, your health and your mental wellbeing –  you can never shake it off, no matter how hard you want to believe Taylor Swift.

If you break a leg, they reset it, fix it and you’re on your way. Done. Back to your life before the accident. You don’t have to take that broken leg into account two years later when deciding on future medications, risks, contraindications and complications.

It’s been five months since I’ve finished active treatment and I’m looking a lot more like me. Hair, brows and lashes are back, not quite the same but close enough. Cheekbones, once dormant under that puffy orb which replaced my face while I was on steroids, have popped back up so my face finally has definition again. I’ve lost those extra chemo kilos that were stubbornly hanging round.

I’m looking, and feeling, good and everyone is cheerfully asking me whether it’s all over now. They’re confident enough in my appearance to ask and they can’t hide the expectant look on their faces, a sweet indication that they’re rooting for me, and yet I can’t give them the good news they want to hear. So I just tell them that the heavy lifting is over and now I’m on medication for the next few years.

What I don’t tell them is that by a few, I mean five to ten years. That while hormone therapy will theoretically increase my chances of long term survival from breast cancer it also comes with nasty side effects such as an increased risk of uterine cancer and sometimes debilitating menopausal symptoms.

I could accept this a lot better if I knew there was a guarantee. But there are no absolutes with cancer. Even following my doctor’s recommendations, my long term survival rate is only 80+%.

But the biggest issue? I could stop every one of my medications, rid myself of the accompanying side effects and remain cancer free until I die of old age. I could also take the scary drugs, remove my ovaries, potentially give up my chance of conceiving and it could still come back. No one knows. ”

This blog  is an excerpt from a post published by Renata Gortan titled ‘Cancer is a chronic disease,‘  published on July 21 2016 on her blog, When Life Goes Tits Up.

As a proud Daffodil Day Ambassador, Renata is encouraging the community to support Daffodil Day on Friday 24 August. Visit www.daffodilday.com.au to dedicate a daffodil to a loved one and support vital cancer research.

When Asked who she will be dedicating a daffodil to this Daffodil Day, Renata says, “To two people, my dad Aldo Gortan who died of prostate cancer last year and my friend Jane Bryant who died of breast cancer this year, aged just 27. “

Renata Gortan dedication_dad