It came to me when reading a book about war. The main character realized that he had not laughed for such a long time; neither had he cried upon losing loved ones.

Some people say that a traumatic event like diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, plus some potentially brutal treatments, can bring on a sort of "post-traumatic stress."

I met a woman recently whose pancreatic cancer has returned, just into her second year. She told me she cried and trembled for days on end in the last year. She went for psychological help and is better now. I almost cried when talking to her. I rarely cry; she is plagued with the opposite.

Laughing. What a gift. I love smart, comedic commentators and funny movies, but I am too serious. I wonder if it's more so since cancer. I know I do not want to spend a key portion of the rest of my life partying or watching TV … well, I never did. Someone wondered a while back if I was "withdrawing" from the world. Some of us in the throes of cancer are good when we are "out and about" in seeming so "normal."

Recently, I did a 2-mile walk to benefit cancer research. I was brisk, sociable … then went home, threw up and retired to bed for the afternoon. Geez … I'm writing in bed now.

My doctors like it when I visit because I never cry, and I can make them smile. I told them how "spunky" I could be to fight this. When I was diagnosed, I was stoic. When they thought (erroneously, it turned out) the cancer was coming back several months ago, well, my face did drop. And I did sit in the car by myself to come to terms with the words I heard. I remember when my mother was dying due to cancer; she kept the pain and the details mostly to herself.

I talk about my experiences to loved ones. I'm writing to deal with it, to share the truths I have learned. And right now, I am more active and living larger.


Share Your Thoughts

What emotions do you associate with your cancer? Have people told you that you've changed? How so? Share your comments below.

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About the Author

Born in Dubuque, Iowa, Susan Stansbury was raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where her little bedroom window overlooked Little Bay de Noc off of Lake Michigan. After working in Chicago for a couple of years out of college, Susan moved back to Wisconsin. "Little did I realize this would mean a career in industry," she says. She joined some companies where she was the first woman in marketing management. She often worked on medical disposable products such as transdermal patches and antibacterial wet wipes. In 2002, Susan left the corporate world to work for herself helping small businesses with marketing needs from business plans, to research, photography and promotions. She gave speeches to industry groups in the United States and occasionally in Europe about topics like sustainability and packaging. With her clients' participation, she developed a manufacturers' expo, which she recently sold, at Green Bay's Lambeau Field Atrium. She writes an occasional article for industry magazines. Increasingly, however, her writing and photography are personal projects. Susan was diagnosed in 2014 with pancreatic cancer.

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sofia refetoff
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Dear Susan Stansbury, I meant to say previously, I can't believe I am asking you to another walk/bike event. Except that its nice to be around a crowd of people who really get it and energize each other. But, there's community information session on pancreatic cancer in November (exact date TBA) which is a nice event to connect with people, although its in Madison. And we also have a patient family run Pancreas Cancer Task Force that meets every other month at the Carbone Cancer Center. If you ever feel like you want to connect or part take in any of these events, just send a note. Or if you ever want to talk or meet for coffee to chat, please just give a holler. I really appreciate all the insight, your thoughts and advice for living with cancer and the experiences you are willing to share. Sending good wishes, Sofia (mom of 3, working at the Carbone Cancer Center).

Sofia Refetoff
on June 7, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Hi Susan:
I have been reading your blogs and I wanted to reach out to you. I know on your April 6th message you had been tired out after a 2-mile walk for cancer research. So, here I am writing to see if you might want to join "Pedal for Pancreas" Cancer Research on June 25th in Madison (well, its in Verona)- there's a 2-mile walk or 10-mile bike ride. But, I wondered if it might be good to be around people who get it and care. I know my kids would love to meet you. Although they lost their dad last August, they are very strong advocates for pancreatic cancer research and for living each moment to the fullest, somehow already understanding how precious each day is.