Woodland native Patricia R. Wheeler is a cancer survivor with a recovery story similar to many people — prolonged complications due to chemotherapy — but when she went looking for books on the subject, she found none. So she wrote one: “Cancer: How to Make Survival Worth Living — Coping With Long Term Effects of Cancer Treatment.”
“None of it ever made any sense to me,” said Wheeler, who is a teacher at Woodland Community College. “Of course, I knew that chemotherapy was terribly toxic and radiation was dangerous in certain situations, but how could I be one person going into treatment for my cancer and so very different a year later when I was done? Why didn’t my memory for names come back? Why didn’t my hair come back? Why was I so tired all the time?
“When I asked the questions, I got no answers other than something having to do with growing older. The notion that I had changed that dramatically because I was now one year older seemed completely illogical, and it omitted a potentially important premise: that chemotherapy could cause long-term side effects.”
Wheeler was determined to find a rational answer to her questions starting with that premise, and her research produced solid medical evidence that chemotherapy did, indeed, cause those problems and others. With this authoritative support, she began two years of work on a book that would help some of the 10 million survivors of chemotherapy understand why they still did not feel well.
Her physician volunteered to help and became her proofreader, reading each chapter as she delivered them to him. The book presents the scientific evidence in an easily readable form using myth, fairy tales, poetry, psychology, spirituality, and other lenses besides Wheeler’s personal experience.
Wheeler returned to Woodland approximately 30 years ago, starting a journey of personal transformation, which she refers to as she describes the skills that survivors need to cope with the changes cancer and its treatment bring to their lives.
With her book published, Wheeler is following the progress of medical researchers who have identified the condition that plagues so many cancer survivors and now are seeking answers to the questions she originally raised. In the meantime, she wants to tell as many survivors as possible that they are not simply “getting older,” but likely have long-term side effects that can be managed.