It will take me several entries to say all I have to say about my time at the AACR Annual meeting. It’s been an amazing experience. I haven’t seen much of San Diego as I’ve been in the conference center almost all of my time here, but I did take a short walk along the seaport after attending my last presentation today. I leave tomorrow morning to return to Chicago.
I am participating in the AACR meeting as part of their Scientist<-->Survivor program. The goal of the program is for those of us who advocate for cancer patients to be exposed to and to learn more about the ongoing science of cancer research from the scientists. It is then hoped that we will communicate our new knowledge and use it to better advocate for those afflicted with cancer.
In this post, I’d like to tell you about one especially wonderful event. On my website I list under recommended reading the book “The Human Side of Cancer: Living with Hope, Coping with Uncertainty” by Jimmie C. Holland, M.D. and Sheldon Lewis. I loved the book. I read it when I was dealing with the emotional aftermath of cancer, it is still on my bookshelf. I’ve linked an online chapter of her book to my website and blog, The Tyranny of Positive Thinking .
Intrigued by the book, I’d learned more of Dr. Jimmie Holland years ago. It turned out she’d created the field of psycho-oncology. She is a leader in addressing the emotional and social aspects of a cancer diagnosis. She is also the founding president of the American Society of Psychosocial Oncology. This is a link to her biography: Dr. Holland’s Biography . She even works at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City, where I was treated.
When I got here, I heard Dr. Jimmie Holland would be at the AACR meeting, she would even be involved with the Scientist<-->Survivor program! She was to give a presentation entitled “Cancer Care for the Whole Patient: Meeting Psychosocial Health Needs”. The chance to meet Dr. Jimmie Holland for me was like a kid getting to meet his baseball hero.
I was able to attend Dr. Holland’s presentation, and I was even able to meet with her personally! We talked a few times, she was very approachable and interesting. She has a help line she may allow me to post to my blog and web site. She said she would support me in giving me information and tools to hopefully start an emotional support system at a large oncology practice near my home. She is a very caring doctor who truly sees the whole cancer patient. When we talked, she said 50% of those diagnosed with severe cancers like ours seek professional emotional help at some point in time. I’m sure an even greater number of us could benefit from that. In hindsight I wish I had sought help during the first several years after my diagnosis. It might have made that time a little easier.
But I think it’s imperative that our oncologists and medical professionals learn to address us in a more holistic way. I remember reading my chart once (I always do that). The only part of my oncology chart that ever addressed the emotional aspect of my diagnosis was an entry in a physician progress note that documented I was a bit emotional during my initial appointment (the one where I was told I was not likely to survive to raise my kids, who were 10 and 11 at the time). No other reference was ever made to anything other than my physical exams at future ongoing appointments.
I hope one of the things I take home from this meeting is an abilitiy and inspiration to help others in their emotional cancer stuggles at the large oncology practice where I was treated.