Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Today is LIVESTRONG Day. Across the country more than 200 events are taking place to engage communities with experiences that increase awareness and show support for cancer survivors and their loved ones. In addition to LAF's efforts in local communities, approximately 200 advocates (with at least two from every state and D.C.), will serve as delagates in Washington, DC, to demand that our nation's leaders invest in resources, treatment, and services for people affected by Cancer and to emphasize the importance of making cancer a national priority.
As an oncology nurse who became a cancer survivor, survivorship issues have been close to my heart - even before they were the clinical hot topic. Last year Lance asked me to blog against cancer. Although the same request was not asked again (and in spite of the fact that I wasn't chosen as a LAF delegate from the grand state of Uglyhoma), this post is my contribution to the cause.
Survivors today are much more educated than the cancer survivors of the past. For one thing, they know what type of cancer they have! One hundred years ago a family knew that someone had "the cancer" much like someone had "the consumption", but treatment details and modalities were rarely discussed. Now after a cancer diagnosis comes an avalanche of decisions: diagnostic testing choices, what type of surgery (if any is needed at all), which chemotherapy regimes, should biotherapies be included, what type of radiation therapy and to which fields, should complimentary therapies be incorporated, and even decisions regarding symptom management and palliative care have become a dialogue between a cancer patient and their physician (and their support system, too, if the survivor wants them included!). The waves of change are crashing around us, and now is the time for survivorship advocates to stand up and demand more.
More national funding for cancer research. More support services for survivors who continue to suffer from long-term and late effects from their cancer treatments. More psychosocial resources to adjust to the stigma and side effects of the disease process. Better, more efficient and cheaper testing techniques. More options. More education. More reasons to LIVESTRONG.
More Hope. As a Nurse Navigator I have found there is no more sincere or greater desire at the bottom of every survivor's heart than the need to hope. Hope for cure. Hope for survival. Hope for symptom control. Hope for the lack of suffering. Hope for the impact of their diagnosis on family dynamics. Hope that insurance will cover their treatment costs. Hope for conception and pregnancy after treatment. Hope for knowledgable and compassionate professionals. Hope that the nurse will only have to stick them once to get their IV started. Hope they have enough gas in the car to make it to their treatment facility. Hope for truth. Hope for personal strength during times of crisis. Hope that someone else will understand,really understand how they feel and what they are going through. Hope to live long enough to see the birth of a grandchild, a wedding, an anniversary, the Yankees win the pennant, Peyton Manning to win the Super Bowl, a graduation, a party – hope to be present for an important life event. Hope to keep their hair despite their chemotherapy regime. . Hope for better days ahead.
LIVESTRONG Day 2007 will stimulate those impacted by a diagnosis of cancer by giving permission to hope and empowering them with tools to use their passions to make a difference in their own cancer situations. The domino effect of LiveSTRONG projects across this country will both impact and change the system.
However, change has never been easy. If we look back through history we will find that big changes only took place after an angry mob demanded something be done. The Revolutionary War, the world wars, the Abolition of Slavery, Rights to Vote and Own Property, Marriage Rights, Prohibition, Healthcare, Education – none of these things were easy or quick changes and some are still in question today. Lance has used a metaphor of creating an "Army" to demand change in cancer care. Considering our past leads me to believe this cliche is more than appropriate. Awareness about the issues, needs and hopes faced by cancer survivors is the first step to create and motivate the angry mob that is necessary to initiate the change needed to implement a national agenda to address cancer in America.
Why is this important to me? I, too, hope. As a cancer survivor I hope that somehow my suffering might impact the system in such a way to make a stranger's cancer journey easier. As an oncology nurse I hope to wake up one morning and wonder what to do with an obsolete career after the cures for all cancers have been discovered.
Hope is an infectious disease; it's time to spread the pandemic.
Do you live under a rock? Here's some info about the Lance Armstrong Foundation: The Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) unites people to fight cancer. The LAF believes that unity is strength, knowledge is power and attitude is everything. The LAF provides the practical information and tools people battling cancer need to live life on their own terms. The LAF also takes aim at the gaps between what is known and what is done to prevent death and suffering due to cancer. We engage with and advocate for the public at large to pursue an agenda focused on prevention, ensuring access to screening and care, investment in research, and improving the quality of life for people affected by cancer. Founded in 1997 by cancer survivor and champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, the LAF is located in Austin, Texas. To learn more about the Lance Armstrong Foundation, visit livestrong.org.