Life Interrupted: When cancer puts life on hold

Ben O’Clair was a college senior studying for finals when he first felt the twinges of pain in his side. A day later, the 21-year-old was in a hospital learning he had cancer. He left school immediately, moved back to his mother’s house in Holliston, Mass., and began arduous chemotherapy treatments at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC).

Five tips for exercising during (and after) cancer treatment

If you think a cancer diagnosis automatically means you’ll need to get plenty of bed rest and avoid activity, think again. A host of medical studies show that exercise can not only reduce the chances of developing cancer, it’s also safe during and after cancer treatment, helping improve quality of life, increase energy levels, and decrease the fatigue that many patients report. Here are some tips for starting your own fitness routine, even if you’re facing the challenge of cancer.

Tips every new cancer survivor should know

In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship.  When I was discharged from the hospital in 1996 after undergoing a stem cell transplant to treat leukemia, I was terrified. Yes, I’d survived cancer treatment, but now I had to deal with something even scarier: the unknown. If you’ve recently ended active treatment and are entering the world of survivorship, here are some tips to keep in mind. It’s OK to feel isolated at first. The end of cancer treatment can bring negative emotions, particularly when those around you think you should be “getting back to normal.” Leaving the safety …

Continue reading

Why pediatric survivor programs are so important

In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship.  When Dana-Farber launched its David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Clinic nearly 20 years ago, it was one of the nation’s first programs dedicated to helping childhood cancer survivors. From the beginning, the pediatric survivorship clinic has been guided by clinic director Lisa Diller, MD, who is recognized globally for her contributions to cancer survivorship and pediatric oncology. The Perini clinic has developed resources that help survivors address issues such as the long-term effects of treatment, the risk of second cancers, and the psychological concerns of being a cancer survivor.

Teacher travels 600 miles for Dana-Farber care

In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship.  In 2008 I discovered that my breast cancer, in remission for several years, had spread to my bones. I had just turned 50 and made a list of things I wanted to try that year: ride a helicopter, taste sake, attend a political rally. Going back into cancer treatment was not on the list. My oncologist in Virginia suggested a consult with Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Center in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. After meeting with him I began traveling to Dana-Farber every …

Continue reading

A comprehensive approach to care for cancer survivors

In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship.  The United States today is home to an estimated 12 million cancer survivors, thanks largely to advances in cancer treatment. But the end of treatment is not the end of the cancer experience. For many cancer survivors and caregivers, the years after cancer treatment can bring physical and psychological challenges, says Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, founder and director of Dana-Farber’s Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer and director of the Adult Survivorship Program.

A talk with Sam Donaldson, melanoma survivor

“I don’t believe that optimism can cure cancer, but I do believe one’s general health around the edges can make a difference.” Sam Donaldson, ABC News contributor, learned he had melanoma (a type of skin cancer) in 1997. Despite his diagnosis, he opted to stay positive and learn all he could about his disease. Now chairman of the foundation board at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), Donaldson also works with other cancer research on survivorship initiatives. He talked to us about what he learned, and shares some of his insights here.

A life saved by second opinions, experimental treatments, and a touch of luck

By James Bond “How long will I live?” I asked my oncologist in Ohio in 1992, when I was 44 and diagnosed with multiple myeloma. “Three years,” he answered. Instead, I enjoyed 10 more years of active living. Then my disease began to overtake me; my kidneys were failing, I was unable to eat solid foods, and I had fevers of 105 degrees. Having already had three stem cell transplants, I seemed to be out of options. My wife Kathleen and I were advised to seek hospice care.

Advocating for student cancer survivors

At age 7, Sophie was treated for a brain tumor at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center. As a result of her treatment, she struggled with ongoing fatigue, weakness on her right side, and chronic headaches. Sophie began her freshman year as one of 2,000 students at a large public high school. Despite support from special education teachers, she struggled with the academic demands of her classes and the overwhelming size of the school. An extremely dedicated student, she spent hours each evening on homework, but she tired easily, which made the headaches worse, and she struggled to get through each school …

Continue reading