Friday, April 04, 2008

April 4, 2008 - Lost in Transition

Here’s a video, “Lost in Transition,” profiling the broad range of issues faced by cancer survivors. It’s fairly long: just over 17 minutes, so get yourself a cup of coffee or do whatever you have to do, before you click on the arrow to view it...

What I like about the video is that it holds up the whole issue of survivorship, which is huge – and getting huger all the time, as more cancer patients live longer lives, thanks to advances in treatment. There once was a time, as the video points out, when a cancer diagnosis was considered a death sentence. Now, there are tens of millions of cancer survivors walking around – and many of us have issues.

The problem becomes acute, for a good many of us, at the moment when treatment ends. Friends, family and co-workers seem to expect us to abruptly make the transition from fighting for our lives to business as usual.

That’s just not going to happen. Cancer is life-changing. Paradoxically, this deadly disease teaches us lessons about living that can’t be learned in too many other places. That’s a good thing – one of the few good things that come out of this tough experience.

Yet, there are a lot of bad things that emerge after cancer treatment, some of which continue long after the last dose of chemo or radiation. Some of us survivors face psychological issues. Others struggle with paying off medical bills, or with workplace difficulties. Still others have a vague sense that cancer has trained us for something, but we’re not sure what.

Although, as a rule, I shun the military metaphor for survivorship – like the “long battle with cancer” we read about in so many obituaries – I’m struck by what one woman says in the video. She says she feels like a soldier, returned home from the war: not quite knowing what to do with herself.

That’s kind of like where I am right now. Yes, my remission is over, which means I continue to go back for scans every 3 months. There’s still cancer in my body, even though there’s no sign I’ll need treatment any time soon. I’m not like those survivors in the video who are concerned they’re no longer getting any care from their doctors. I still make monthly pilgrimages to Atlantic Hematology/Oncology for my port flushes, and every three months I sit down for a little chat with Dr. Lerner. Those things keep me connected enough.

It’s hard, though, to take up life’s larger tasks and projects, because I’m never sure when a scan might reveal swollen lymph nodes large enough to treat, and the wild ride will begin all over again. Will it be months? Or years? Or never?

That’s my survivorship issue. Maybe I’m still “lost in transition” as well.


Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Dear Pastor,
Thanks for sharing this video. Dr. Patti Ganz (pictured in the video) is one of my heroes. She has labored to bring issues of survivorship to the forefront for years. She just received the American Psychosocial Oncology Society's Distinguished Public Service Award.

AFTER CANCER is a book that discusses the medical, practical and emotional issues of survivorship after completion of treatment.

It took a while before I could trust in the future and make plans with confidence. For me, I learned it was better to plan on being fine and expect to be able to fulfill my commitment, than to defer to the possiblity of not being fine and therefore not make any commitments.

with hope, Wendy

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for putting this video on your blog so I know about. The issues it covers are most important and need more attention.


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