What Questions Should You Ask When Treatment Ends?

The successful end of cancer treatment is a welcome milestone for any patient, but it’s also the beginning of an important new chapter. Here are some questions to ask your care team at the end of treatment to help you live well beyond cancer: Can I get a treatment summary and survivorship care plan? A treatment summary will usually include your cancer diagnosis and describe the medical care that you received. A survivorship care plan will describe follow-up screenings you might need, as well as preventive measures to help prevent future health problems. It may also offer tips for managing …

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At 91 Years Old, Sandy Cunningham Keeps On Volunteering for Cancer Patients

Sandy Cunningham 150

Ingersoll “Sandy” Cunningham has the dignified, silver-haired appearance of a man you’d expect to find sipping iced tea at the country club. So what is this Harvard-educated great-grandfather doing pushing food carts through the hallways of Dana-Farber, handing out sandwiches to patients? “You’ve got to have some objective when you get up in the morning, a purpose and a place to be,” says Cunningham, 91, a retired investment advisor, and for the last 16 years, a weekly volunteer at Dana-Farber. “This is mine. I used to take care of people and their money; now I take care of people facing …

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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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