Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fear and Language Effect Choices in Cancer Care

How do we take apart the statistics and the estimations about which treatment is effective versus which care is necessary? What are the factors that guide you and your doctor in estimating your first step and then a next step?

The article (link below) below from today’s New York Times discusses the language of mortality rates, recurrence rates, and overtreatment versus unnecessary care. While the writer, Lisa Rosenbaum is using examples from breast cancer; this is an important article for anyone facing a cancer diagnosis or decisions about levels of care and treatment. 

She makes an important distinction between “over-diagnosis” and “overtreatment,” and she explains how fear and perhaps your fear temperament can make a difference in how you interpret what a doc is telling you.

She makes the other crucial point that “overtreatment” is not the same as “unnecessary care.” Again, your temperament—and maybe the doctor’s communication skills—are going to have an impact on your decision-making.

Do take a look at this brief but important article, and please, share this one with folks you know in CancerLand. 

Here's the link:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What's the Upside to the Trauma of Cancer

The odds are pretty good that if you have been hanging out in CancerLand you have experienced some trauma. It might be your diagnosis or the reality of your treatment or how the “not too bad” side effects turned out to be horrendous. OR, if you are the caregiver, the trauma is again that day of diagnosis and then the shock of exhaustion and the pain of having your body flooded with adrenaline for months on end. Plenty of trauma and yes, therefore plenty of post-traumatic stress.

But now there is some really good news about trauma and cancer. It turns out that there is also something called Post-Traumatic Growth, which also accrues to patients and caregivers in CancerLand.

I’m learning about this in the new book called “Upside—The New Science of Post-Traumatic
Growth” written by Jim Rendon, a veteran journalist.

Rendon spent years interviewing social scientists, physicians and survivors of trauma—all kinds of trauma and much of it medical and cancer trauma-- and his book show us that it is truly possible to thrive and not just survive trauma. That business about “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” turns out to be true. But it’s even a little better than that because God knows we are strong but in “Upside” Rendon shows that we get a joy and happiness boost as well.

This book is hope in hardcover for so many of us, and it is validation as well, that being happy after the trauma of cancer is not a sign of denial.

This is going to be an important book for therapists and coaches and counselors and especially for folks in oncology and cancer care. We can now back up our promises with science and research, when we say that no matter what happened, you can be happy, joyous and free.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Literature of Caregiving: Cancer Vixen

Graphic novels—also called “comics” --have become so popular with readers of all ages that many bookstores have stopped segregating them on a single shelf and now integrate them with traditional books and related categories: fiction, nonfiction, parenting, health, memoir. 
This year Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, Fun Home was adapted for Broadway and became the Tony award-winning Best Musical of 2015. So it makes sense that graphic novels and graphic memoir are having a moment. So we can find them in the Literature of Caregiving and The Literature of Cancer genre.
One of the graphic/comic cancer books that I especially love is Marisa Acocella’s Cancer Vixen. Acocella had long been a cartoonist for The New Yorker, Glamour and Modern Bride magazines when she took a flying leap and wrote a book about her experience with breast cancer. 
Diagnosed just a few months before her wedding, Acocella provides a powerful visual story about getting the news, her changing relationship with her fiancé/husband, and the trials of treatment and the terror of being uninsured. 
Acocella also includes her dilemmas dealing with shoes, clothes, lipstick, girl friends, shopping and tribulations at her job, making it one of the funniest and most honest cancer stories. It is a mad combination of Girly-Girl advice and fierce advocacy.
Another graphic (in every sense) book about cancer is “Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person” by Miriam Engelberg. Engelberg was a cartoonist living in San Francisco and her book is a memoir created by a series of comics that take us through her cancer journey—first diagnosis, treatments, family, workplace, second diagnosis, more treatments and her internal reactions.
A couple of things set this work apart from Cancer Vixen: unlike Marissa Acocella, Engelberg was not a trained cartoonist, but her outsider-naïve style lends an air of vulnerability and immediacy to the work. Unlike Cancer Vixen, Engelberg’s book does not have a happy ending. She died a few months after the book was published.
Both of these books are funny and inspiring. At the center of each story is a view of the ways that many of us react to difficult things. For Acocella and Engelberg it’s cancer, for you or a friend it could be divorce, aging, trouble with kids etc.Yes, there is humor in these stories, as well as pain and hope and honesty.
The Literature of Caregiving is a monthly series here at Love in the Time Of Cancer.