Dr. Wendy Harpham is a doctor of internal medicine, cancer survivor, and award-winning and best-selling author of books about cancer: Healthy Survivorship, recovery and late effects, and raising children when a parent has cancer. She is also a public speaker, patient advocate, and mother of three.
After people have a heart attack, stroke or joint replacement, rehab is a routine part of their recovery plan. Cancer survivors, too, can have significant musculoskeletal issues during and after the acute illness. Yet cancer rehab programs are few and far between. Why is that?
Yesterday I was in Washington, D.C. to participate in the inaugural meeting of ASCO's Cancer Survivorship Committee. [ASCO is the American Society of Clinical Oncology.] While the specifics of the meeting are confidential, I'd like to share two things:
In my last post I shared my response to a reader who was upset by the media reports of a new study. The commenter expressed ambivalence about discussing it with her physicians: "I don't know if it would be healthy or not to ask my doctors...if [knowing what we know today] I would have been spared this surgery."
A breast cancer survivor recently emailed me, upset by media reports on a new study, the results of which led researchers to the conclusion that many women with early breast cancer do not need surgical removal of the cancerous lymph nodes in the axilla (armpit).
This is a huge deal, since patients who undergo the surgery are far more likely to have complications like infections, abnormal sensations, fluid collecting in the armpit and lymphedema. The survivor who emailed me had the surgery and now suffers from chronic arm problems. With her permission, this is how I responded:
In yesterday's post, I shared Dr. Marsha Epstein's "5 Rs for tobacco users unwilling to stop." Today I'll generalize these 5 Rs, so they can be adapted to the challenge of taking effective action, i.e., pursuing actions that help you get good care and live as fully as possible.
For smokers, snubbing out their last-ever cigarette is a key element of "getting good care" in their pursuit of Healthy Survivorship. But smokers often feel miserable while quitting, enough that most relapse.