I’m a cancer survivor; now what?

By July 8, 2011


What: Livestrong Challenge, attracting as many as 1,500 bicyclists to raise money for people and families affected by cancer

When: Rides of 20, 45, 70 and 105 miles begin at 7:30 a.m. Sunday

Where: Start/finish line on C Street between Third and Fourth streets, adjacent to Central Park

The fun: A post-ride party for participants and their families is planned Sunday in the park; food lines open at 8 a.m., the kids zone and massage tent open at 9 a.m. and the beer tent follows at 9:30 a.m.

Info: http://www.livestrong.org/DavisChallenge and http://cityofdavis.org/gis/livestrong

By Doug Ulman

You’ve done it. You’ve beaten cancer. Come through the treatment. Endured the pain and the fear and emerged a new person: tougher, wiser and more resilient than ever.

Now what? “Your cancer treatment is over and all of the focus that was on you during the treatment is now over,” a survivor told us recently. “You are left with many side-effects and no support or answers.”

For decades, research has been focused on helping people beat cancer. This year alone, 1.5 million Americans will face a new diagnosis and, due to advances in medicine and treatment options, more of them will survive than ever before.

But once they have completed treatment and said goodbye to their medical team, they will find that while cancer may leave their bodies, its effects can last a lifetime —physically, emotionally and financially. Calibrating these effects and offsetting them with resources and support is the focus of an emerging field in the cancer community — survivorship.

To help shed light on the challenges survivors face and how the survivorship field can address them, Livestrong released the second installment of its survey for people affected by cancer last week, an undertaking that included more than 11,000 cancer survivors, their loved ones and family members.

The survey results show fewer Americans today are getting help for physical, emotional and practical concerns after cancer than in 2006.

Medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in America. However, only one in five respondents received help with debt, insurance coverage or career concerns. Seventy-nine percent said they suffered from fear centered on a possible recurrence yet only 49 percent got emotional help. That’s down 2 percent since 2006.

And many reported chronic physical effects like trouble concentrating, lingering pain and lack of energy, with varying levels of help for those challenges.

The report shows survivorship has a long way to go. The good news is that there are resources to help survivors and their families navigate the after-effects of cancer.

Within the cancer community, there are many nonprofit organizations and services who seek to fill the gaps. Livestrong’s navigation services, like the American Cancer Society’s, connect survivors with information and services to overcome the during-treatment and post-treatment challenges they face.

Through our ongoing work and with the findings in this study we aim to continue to advocate for treating survivorship as a distinct phase of the cancer continuum. We hope to see public policy makers, health advocates and medical professionals acknowledge that survivorship is a critical piece of cancer care, and work to help more people live successfully with the long-term impact of cancer.

Fundamentally, our organizations are about hope — hope for a cancer-free future. But until we get there, we will continue to work each day to fight cancer, help people live and thrive with and through cancer, and bring the voice of survivors to life.

We will advocate for better care, better medicine, better treatments and better answers for the millions of people who will someday wake up and ask: Now what?

— Doug Ulman is a three-time cancer survivor and president and CEO of Livestrong, a nonprofit organization that serves people and families affected by cancer. Its signature Livestrong Challenge fundraising bicycle ride takes place Sunday in Davis, beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Special to The Enterprise

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