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Cancer Survivorship And Fear

I had breakfast this morning in Las Vegas with my friend, Dave Garcia. Dave is a pit boss on the graveyard shift at the Belagio Hotel where they made the modern-day “Ocean’s 11″ buddy movie from 1960. Dave is also a 52-year-old chronic lymphocytic leukemia survivor. He reached out to me online and we have been friends since soon after his diagnosis in 2002.

Dave is a father of two young kids. He dreams of seeing them grow up. But, understandably, he worries. Some days more than others. Today was his day to see his oncologist and get the latest blood test results. Would his white blood count (WBC) be in the normal range? If so, his third round of treatment was still working. If not, he might be headed to a stem cell transplant, short-term disability, and living in another city for weeks or months.

As  you can imagine, Dave was on pins and needles today. He would be against more chemo because he worries about the toxic drugs killing cancer cells but weakening him in the long run. Dave admits his blood pressure goes up on these days.

Dave is not alone in his fear. For millions of cancer survivors, while each day is special, some days are anxiety producing. For me it’s when I have a strange ache or pain. I rarely tell Esther, but I worry. For almost everyone it’s on days when we are having a “checkup.” The worry is, is this the day another shoe will drop? Fortunately, that hasn’t come for me yet and I hope it never will. I am happy to say Dave just texted me. His worry today was unfounded. The WBC was normal. He was given a pass at least for a few more months. We hope forever!

At another meeting today in Las Vegas there was a discussion about information for cancer patients. Nurses ticking off all sorts of facts and admonishments to patients. The nurses feel they are doing their job of education quite well. Some patients would say maybe not so well. How come? Fear. For us it is not clinical routine. It is our lives on the line at diagnosis or at a checkup. We often don’t hear so well in those moments. Dave may not have heard so well today. Only one word counted: “Normal.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

A Window Into Cancer Research

Exciting Time with World Renowned Experts from Patient Power® on Vimeo.

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

Sharing Your Health Issues: The Responsibility Of Survivorship

Jill ClayburghThis past weekend Oscar-nominated Hollywood and Broadway actress Jill Clayburgh died at age 66. The cause was chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), which she had been fighting, privately, for 21 years.

As you may recall, I, too, have CLL and I was diagnosed at the same age, 45. For me, I am 16 and a half years into that “battle” although, fortunately, I have been feeling very good in the ten years since I received treatment as part of a breakthrough clinical trial. While I have no symptoms and take no medicine I do not consider myself cured.

So when someone like Ms. Clayburgh dies of CLL after 21 years, I can’t help but wonder if the disease will shorten my life too, even if I feel good now. That brings up the question of what do we do with the time we have when we know we have had a serious diagnosis and the clock may be ticking for us — or not? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

For Patients, Does The FDA Play Fair?

They have a tough job, those government doctors, scientists, and bureaucrats who are charged with assessing the safety and effectiveness of proposed new medical products. As you know, they rely largely on studies presented by the applicants.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the power to not approve a new drug or product or even pull it off the market. Right now it is considering limiting or pulling GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) diabetes drug, Avandia, because of newly discovered data that it may have caused heart attack in some patients –- data mysteriously not shown in GSK’s own studies. If the drug is pulled it will cost GSK billions of dollars in lost revenue but, from the FDA’s point-of-view, it will be protecting the public. And, after all, there are safer diabetes drugs on the market as alternatives. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

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I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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