Nurses Feel ‘Privilege’ of Working with Patients and Colleagues

Honoring Dana-Farber nurses

Dana-Farber oncology nurses have grown accustomed to being asked how they can do such a difficult job every day. But talk with them and you’ll learn that they feel far more blessed than burdened by these challenges. In honor of National Nurses Week May 6-12, we asked four Dana-Farber nurses to reflect on what drew them to the field of oncology, and what they enjoy most about it. “It’s a privilege to help people on their cancer journey,” says Laurie Appleby, NP, of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology. “The human connection we make with patients and families, and the …

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ABC’s Dan Harris Shares His Journey to Mindfulness

ABC's Dan Harris

Mindfulness meditation is a simple, effective technique for relieving stress and focusing on the present, whether you’re a current cancer patient, a longtime survivor, or even “a fidgety news man.” This was the message delivered by Dan Harris, correspondent and co-anchor for ABC’s “Nightline” and “Good Morning America Weekend,” during the keynote speech at the 13th annual Lenny Lecture sponsored by Dana-Farber’s Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies, Adult Survivorship Program, and Perini Family Survivors’ Center. His talk centered on the powerful story of how he used 5-10 minutes of daily meditation to reduce the anxiety he felt in …

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Survivor, Hero, Battle: The Complicated Language of Cancer

The language of cancer

The language used to talk about cancer often focuses on battle words – those who are cured “won” or “survived,” while those who die from cancer “lost” their “fight.” But is cancer really something to be won or lost? Young adults with cancer discussed these phrases and others during the recent Young Adult Cancer Conference hosted by the Young Adult Program at Dana-Farber. Labeling your cancer, and yourself as a patient or survivor, is often one of the most challenging aspects of the cancer experience, they said. Loved ones and those without cancer often consider cancer patients “heroes,” but, as …

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Helping Cancer Patients ‘Live Life to the Fullest’

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Cancer survivors of all ages sometimes face psychological, social, or physical side effects that are long-lasting or develop later in life. With the number of survivors reaching 12 million in the U.S. today, the need for survivorship care and education is growing. “Survivorship care is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Just like treating a cancer when a person comes in, we look at the person and the characteristics of the disease,” Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, director of Dana-Farber’s Adult Survivorship Program. “We need to tailor survivorship care as well, to help patients move forward and live life to the fullest.” Partridge …

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How to Manage Stress and Anxiety During Cancer Treatment

managing stress when you have cancer

Cancer comes with significant stress and anxiety for patients and their loved ones, which can make managing treatment even more difficult. Recently, Karen Fasciano, PsyD, clinical psychiatrist at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, joined four patients to discuss their experiences. “Often when we tell ourselves we can’t feel anxious, the anxiety gets bigger,” said Fasciano, who provides individual counseling to patients through her role as director of Dana-Farber’s Young Adult Program. “It’s important to recognize when you’re feeling anxious and where it’s coming from.” Kat Caverly (@KatCaverly), Noel Dawes (@NoelDawes), Chris Gazarian (@ChrisGaz), and Carolyn Ridge (@cr1682) joined Fasciano for …

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Finding the Right Words at the Right Time

SMALL_Staff Portrait Justin Sanders October 2014

This is an excerpt from a perspective published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Feb. 12, 2015. By Justin Sanders, MD, MSc When Ms. C. died, I was sad but not surprised. I had met her 4 years earlier, when I was an intern and she was the first patient who identified me as “my doctor.” She did so enthusiastically, asking the inpatient medical teams who frequently cared for her to run every decision by me. As a trainee, and given her complex needs, I found those requests both absurd and overwhelming. By 65 years of age, Ms. …

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Helping Cancer Survivors Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Eric Zhou, PhD- SMALL

Sarah Boczanowski was tired. Her turbulent relationship with sleep, dating back to her childhood, had only worsened since her leukemia diagnosis at age 18. Through biopsies and chemotherapy, she found sleep elusive. “With nurses and doctors coming in and out, and beeping noises from my IVs, it was impossible to sleep,” she says. Boczanowski is not alone. For many cancer patients and survivors, chronic insomnia is a common side effect of living with cancer – possibly triggered by several factors, including the cancer diagnosis, side effects of treatment, fear of recurrence, hospitalization, or chronic pain. Research shows that more than …

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How to Manage Health Insurance When You Have Cancer

Clipboard, paper and pen. Stock shot.

Learning you have cancer means you’ll want to work with a medical team that can help you create the best possible treatment plan. But it also means you need to understand your health insurance coverage. Like any complex health condition, treating cancer can involve many different types of care, and you’ll want to be sure your providers and treatments will be covered. Start by calling your insurance company. The level of coverage for exams and other medical procedures will vary depending on your specific health plan. Dial the customer service number on the back of your health insurance card and …

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Can Cancer Survivors Donate Blood or Platelets?

SMALL_Bloodmobile at Copley Square.

Blood products like whole blood and platelets are lifesaving for cancer patients at Dana-Farber and elsewhere. It comes as no surprise, then, that many cancer survivors want to return the favor by donating at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center, which collects blood products to benefit patients at both Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Survivors of solid tumor cancers are eligible to donate blood and platelets beginning one year after they stop taking medication for their cancer; however, survivors of blood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, and other blood disorders, are permanently deferred due to the nature of their …

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How Her ‘Cancer Family’ Helped One Young Adult Through Treatment

young adult cancer, lymphoma

By Christina Dixon Cancer turned my world upside-down overnight. I had just graduated from college, moved to Boston after finishing undergrad at Washington and Lee in Virginia, and started my dream job on an interest rate derivatives sales desk.  Suddenly, instead of working, spending time with my friends, and playing sports, my life was filled with PET scans, chemotherapy, and pain management to treat stage IVB Hodgkin lymphoma. I was just 22 and facing my mortality in a very real way. From the very beginning, I decided I wanted as much good as possible to come from cancer. I did not want to …

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