Illustration by Jeffrey Decoster
“Am I going to make it?” That’s the question at the back of your mind, if not the front, when you’re facing a health crisis.
Today, the answer is mostly yes. As a result of medical advances over the past few decades, you can face down demons such as AIDS, diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer. You can come back from severe injuries — widespread burns, for instance — that used to be insurmountable.
And so you survive. You breathe a huge sigh of relief, throw open a window and get back to living. Yet for many, there’s no returning to normal. Physical changes get in the way. You’re weak. You’re tired.
Your body no longer moves the way it used to. Your thoughts are foggy. And then there is the emotional dimension — the joy at surviving, the urgency to live each day to its fullest, the memories of pain and fear, all of which can radically change your outlook on life.
The medical profession is not especially practiced at helping survivors live among the well again, but it’s making strides. For decades, rehabilitation programs have been a standard part of treatment for those emerging from heart attack, stroke and traumatic brain injury.
More recently, survivor support groups — both online and in the real world — have emerged as important sources of emotional sustenance. And in the past decade cancer centers throughout the country have opened clinics specifically for adult survivors.
These supports are crucial for America today, where one in 20 adults has survived cancer, one in 45 has survived a stroke, and every year hundreds of thousands survive a heart attack.
We’re a nation of survivors.
To learn more about survivors, read on.