It’s time I came clean.

For the past year or so, I’ve been volunteering with a national cancer organization, Support for People with Oral Head & Neck Cancer (SPOHNC). I’ve met incredibly astonishing people –  a well structured organization that included supporting staff along with patients, veterans, and caregivers who I found to be courageous, intelligent, and most impressively human.

As part of their support program, they match me up with newly diagnosed cancer patients who have had the same clinical diagnosis and similar treatment plan as I did. These patients or caregivers can then begin contact so we can walk thru the process of treatment and recovery together. There I can provide support and guidance in this frightening landscape in real-time, with a real voice.

The more I became involved, the more I wanted to become involved. So I began investigating the area of patient advocacy as a career as well as beginning a network of contacts and educational resources. There is no formal certification for this although most advocates extend their experience from nursing or social work. I’m coming from a much different perspective – that of a patient, one who has been tested by both the system of healthcare as well as the disease.

Then some weeks ago, while building these connections, I met an incredible woman by the name of Ilene Corina who, over fifteen years ago, started a patient safety organization called PULSE. She has become my mentor, teacher, and guide along with my sounding board for my ideas and enthusiasm.

Over the past few weeks, this passion has begun building momentum and speed. I spend my days now between two worlds – that of my current occupation in account services/project management in the print world and my new one of patient advocacy and support. I’ve joined several organizations to continue to increase my resources and find myself doing now at 60 what I did in my 20’s – building a network of people, ideas, and goals. And it has been that long since I’ve felt that passion.

I’ve also begun building a new blog – GettingCancer. Although I’ve occasionally posted here about my experience in CancerWorld (or TumorTown as Hitch called it), I’ve kept this blog devoted to my love of the written word and the visual arts that compliment it. My new blog assumes the cloak of patient advocacy and the cancer journey. Although my experiences with that have had an impact on what I do here, I’d like to keep them separate only to provide them both the proper attention and indentity. My friends will then know what to look for and where.

So although my posting has been light and I’ve been putting up other writing and images over the past weeks rather than my own original writing, it’s for a dream that I’m pursuing and one that I hope to achieve. I also hope I have the same energy and staying power that I had those many decades ago.

So, if you’d like, you can take a peek thru the boards at the new site which is still in the raw structure stages. Like watching the steel go up before the stairs, the walls, and the floors are put in. But piece by piece it will come together. I plan to have it up and fully running by the beginning of January.

Of course, my love of books is still here and I’ll still post my musings and images when I’m so driven. And driven is the operative word. Just gotta keep my eye on the map in front of me.

Onward we all go – 2012 is going to be a most interesting year…

– Jeff

Self portrait © Monte Ellis