CNN Food and Health

Cancer Victim Fighting Third Form of Disease

Aired Nov. 14, 1995
7:45 a.m. EST (1245 GMT)

Abstract : One woman who is nearing what may be the end of her third battle with cancer says the key to surviving is early detection. Susan Leigh also credits survivorship groups which helped her with the fear of cancer.

Full Text:

ANDREA ARCENEAUX, Anchor: What can cancer patients do to become long term survivors. Well, joining us now is Susan Leigh, past president of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. She is an oncology nurse with personal knowledge of cancer treatments. Leigh was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in 1974. Now five years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and this July she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Susan Leigh is in our Washington bureau and we thank you for joining us this morning.

SUSAN LEIGH, Cancer Survivor, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship: Thank you.

ANDREA ARCENEAUX: Now, what is the status of the bladder cancer? Are you still undergoing treatments and are they successful?

SUSAN LEIGH: Fortunately, it's very, very early stage and I just finished my first round of immunotherapy and actually I go back to Tucson and tomorrow I will have a repeat test and biopsies to see how things are going.

ANDREA ARCENEAUX: What is the key to surviving cancer?

SUSAN LEIGH: Oh, I think everybody has their own key to surviving cancer, but certainly those of us who are involved in the survivorship movement and even specifically the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, I think so many of us feel that one of the major keys is information and being an informed consumer.

ANDREA ARCENEAUX: And you mentioned just a moment ago that the bladder cancer was detected early. Give us a little insight in to early detection and being an oncology nurse, you probably had some insights already. But what can the average person do to make certain that they stay on top of detection?

SUSAN LEIGH: Some much is just being aware of your health status and if you have any changes in bowel or bladder, if you have any bleeding, if you have any lumps or bumps that shouldn't be there, moles on your skin. There are a number or warning signs that you really need to be aware of and then just go and get them checked out. Actually, the American Cancer Society has a really nice list of seven warning signs that all of us need to be aware of.

ANDREA ARCENEAUX: And what about treatments? Chemotherapy, radiation, some are even suggesting that diet can help. As far as your personal experience, what was key?

SUSAN LEIGH: Once again is getting in as early as possible, finding physicians and the whole allied health care team that's really on your side and is really helping you make the best choices for you depending upon your specific situation. I'm very, very pro second opinions, third opinions, fourth opinions, finding the people who can really help you make the best decisions.

ANDREA ARCENEAUX: What about surgery? Is surgery also always necessary?

SUSAN LEIGH: Oh sure! Surgery is one of the major forms of treatment. A lot of times it's done for diagnostic reasons, but it's part of that whole armamenterium of therapies that we have available.

ANDREA ARCENEAUX: How much of surviving is mental?

SUSAN LEIGH: Oh, probably the majority of surviving is mental. I think mental means you have to make the right decisions. That you have to be proactive. That you have to make decisions that are right for you and not necessarily for your family members or your health care team that's working with you. But it's really just setting up the experience so you have as much power or empowered as we say today, to really find the best available treatment.

ANDREA ARCENEAUX: What was the toughest part for you?

SUSAN LEIGH: The toughest part, well, for which experience? It's really hard to say. I've been dealing with this for almost 24 years. Actually my Hodgkin's disease was diagnosed in 1972. So, I'm kind of what you'd call a professional cancer survivor and I think one of the hardest things is dealing with the fear and I've had this experience personally three times now. The fear is always there. But I think when you have access to information, you have access to support systems, you know that there are other people out there who are surviving these diseases, then that in fact helps you deal with that fear and move on to do what you really need to do.

ANDREA ARCENEAUX: Susan Leigh, we thank you for joining us this morning on Early Edition.

SUSAN LEIGH: Thank you.


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