Today marks six years since my cancer diagnosis. I was diagnosed on erev Rosh Hashanah – the evening before the first day of the Jewish new year. On that first day of that new year, I sat in front of a radiation oncologist who basically said “this is what you have and this is what we’ll do.”
Dates are important to a cancer patient and go into the book along with birthdays and anniversaries. In it’s own strange way, the date of diagnosis has a bit of the qualities of both – an entry into a different life as well as an annual remembrance of what had taken place. Or, as I always say, once a cancer patient, always a cancer patient.
Tonight I’ve also been offered a unique opportunity to co-chair my head and neck cancer support group. I’ve been a member for the past three years and along with the support I’ve received, I’ve also counseled other patients and their caregivers from diagnosis thru treatment and recovery. Now I’ll be sitting in the front of the room to take even greater responsibility for the well-being of my fellow veterans and the people who love them.
Over the last few years, between an online presence and my involvement in SPOHNC, I’ve seen the incredible insights and depth of experience that the patient and survivor community can offer. Beyond the clinical aspects of diagnosis and treatment, this community offers the street wisdom and knowledge that helps each family get thru the daily fears, frustrations, and impediments to care and recovery. There is nothing more powerful than patient to patient communication and the care that it offers.
Even the medical community has also begun to recognize that experience and has started building patient and family advisory councils that will help eliminate the communication gaps that exist among patients, their caregivers, and healthcare providers. I’ve recently become a member of just such a group here at one of the largest hospital centers in the region.
Recently I read a statistic that over 1.6 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed every year. By 2030, that number will jump 45% to 2.4 million cases. With healthcare becoming more of a business, there is even greater need for patients to engage with each other for the support that the clinicians don’t have the time or resources to provide.
To that end, I’ve also relaunched my GettingCancer site and will begin posting news, thoughts, and innovations directly related to cancer. I had separated that out from this blog some time ago and I try to keep it out of the mix. But I know that there are survivors and caregivers whom I’ve found and who have found me thru this blog. I hope that continues.
I thank you all for your support, your encouragement, the insights, talent, and creativity you’ve brought me. Without you, I would not have accomplished what I have over the past few years.
Onward we go – new adventures await!