My Cancer

It came without a warning. It rang through my mind like a giant gong Announcing the entrance of a mighty royal person Or the beginning of an era. It shattered the comforting tranquility That clothed my aging body, Already aching from the daily tasks Of staying alive. It startled me. I was first angered by



Biden Community Cancer Summit in Ithaca

The Cancer Resource Center and cancer researchers from Cornell University joined forces on Friday, September 21, 2018 to host a Biden Cancer Community Summit in Ithaca. Three sessions were held throughout the day, each bringing Cornell researchers into the community to share their knowledge with individuals personally affected by cancer and the general public. Faculty



No right way through cancer

I often say that there’s no single right way through cancer. What do I mean by that? Some people aggressively treat their cancers with surgery and chemotherapy long past the time that others would have switched to comfort measures. Some people keep their cancer diagnosis a secret from nearly everyone while others make it a



Cancer on your own terms

I once wrote a column about people who go through cancer with exceptional grace. A few readers said that the column made them angry. The comments were along the lines of, “I’m dealing with a crappy disease and you want me to do that gracefully? Well, phooey on that and phooey on you.” I’m always



Cancer: Simple wisdom from our pets

We’re delighted to announce the arrival of our latest publication! It illustrates our most common pieces of advice with photos donated from the SPCA of Tompkins County. (The photos were submitted by local residents for consideration for the SPCA’s 2018 calendar). Thanks to financial support from the Eagles Club of Ithaca, printed copies are available



The post-treatment blahs

For many people the months following cancer treatment are more difficult than the treatment itself. During treatment, your “job” is to be in treatment. You’re busy with appointments and you see the same doctors and nurses almost every week. At the same time, friends bring you meals, family members take on extra duties, and you’re



Practical advice for getting second opinions

A woman recently diagnosed with cancer stopped by our office to say that she’s heard that it’s important to obtain second opinions from major cancer centers and to assemble a team of experts to provide her treatment. She asked, “How the hell do I do that?” Cancer guidebooks are full of grandiose suggestions like “assemble



Cancer-Related Fatigue

When people think about the side effects of cancer treatment, they usually think about hair loss (which is common with some types of chemotherapy), and nausea (which is not nearly as common as it used to be). But in my experience, fatigue is the side effect that’s most universal and least appreciated. Fatigue is different



CRC statement regarding health care reform

Those of us personally affected by cancer see proposed changes in health insurance in very concrete terms. The changes aren’t abstractions that may affect us at some point in time in the future. Instead, the changes are very real and will affect our medical and economic well-being when a new law is implemented. The House



Decision-making with cancer

Everyone diagnosed with cancer has decisions to make. What type of treatment? Where to have treatment? Should the cancer even be treated? The question isn’t what’s best. Rather, the question is what’s best for you. After working with people making these decisions for the past several years, I’ve found that some general guidelines can be helpful:



Are you a competitive athlete and a cancer survivor?

Jessica Wood, an Ithaca College graduate student in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, is researching “Mental Toughness in Cancer Survivors with Previous Athletic Experience.” She’s recruiting athletes/cancer survivors for a study that provides insight into mental toughness and cancer. A competitive athlete is defined here as an individual who had two years of



Making friends with your oncologist

An oncologist once remarked to me that her patients routinely told her about their personal lives – like they were trying to strike up friendships. I can understand this. It’s not that patients expect their oncologists to invite them over for dinner, but there is a desire to make some sort of human connection. I’m



Connecting cancer scientists and cancer patients

Most cancer research begins in laboratories where scientists seek to understand why normal cells mutate into cancer cells and then travel, wreaking havoc, elsewhere in the body. These basic scientists are generally more familiar with test tubes than with cancer patients. Nationally, there’s growing interest in building partnerships between scientists and patients. For example, review



Why do engineers study cancer?

You probably know that cancer research is routinely done by biologists, but you might be surprised to learn that engineers increasingly contribute to our understanding and treatment of this disease. Here are some examples: Cancer cells migrate through the body to take root in distant organs. These cells have to survive the “flowing river” of



Your doctor can’t read your mind

In the cancer world, patients often differ on what they want to hear from their doctors. Here are some examples: Some patients want to know – in detail – the various pros and cons of every treatment option, while other patients just want to know what the doctor thinks is best. Some patients want to



Nice people abound in the cancer world

One of the volunteers at the Cancer Resource Center recently said to me, “Every person I meet with cancer is nice.” It’s an interesting observation and one that other volunteers have made as well. I’ve been in the cancer world for more than 20 years and I think it’s generally true. Not because nice people



Bob’s Medical Adventure

I wanted to share some information about my health since it prompted my decision to step aside as CRC’s Executive Director. At heart, I’m a health educator, so it comes naturally for me to talk about these things. What I’m dealing with now is not cancer-related. Instead, it’s a rare condition – much rarer than



Good care is a partnership between patient and doctor

I spend much of my time helping seriously ill patients navigate the health care system. As a result, I’m constantly talking with patients about their interactions with doctors and other health professionals. Although each encounter is unique, I’m increasingly aware of some universal truths that contribute to good patient-doctor encounters. Not surprisingly, good encounters require



Clinical trials and cancer

People diagnosed with cancer often wonder if they should participate in a clinical trial. When someone asks for my opinion, I begin by saying that clinical trials are essential for the advancement of medicine. For example, one clinical trial found that women with early-stage breast cancer did just as well after a lumpectomy (followed by



Donating hair

We often receive calls from individuals who wish to donate hair that can be made into wigs for people with cancer or other types of hair loss. We’ve pulled together information about some of the best-known organizations that accept donations and some articles that might be of interest. Lather, Rinse, Donate (New York Times) I’ve



A field guide to family members of cancer patients

There are a variety of styles that spouses and other close family members adopt to help a family member with cancer. Here are several negative styles that I’ve observed through the years as well as the style that is most likely to be helpful. Combatants are always looking to pick a fight, often with doctors



Parking lot moments after a cancer diagnosis

You’re initially stunned when you hear the words, “You have cancer.” Your brain freezes and things are a blur for at least a few minutes. A friend recently asked me what went through my mind once the initial numbness began to fade. For me, this was when I had checked out of the doctor’s office



Cancer and the holidays

The first few months of living with cancer are weird. What seems especially unsettling is that life goes on normally around you, but YOU HAVE CANCER. Your life is suddenly different but everyone else is carrying on like they always do. This sensation is even more intense during the holiday season. There are traditions and



Value your own story

I recently spoke with a group in Binghamton, NY about coping with and communicating about cancer. One attendee suggested that I add the importance of valuing our individual cancer stories. What a terrific idea. Each person who’s been through cancer (either as a patient or a caretaker) has a unique story. For many of us,



How faith communities serve those with cancer

I recently had the good fortune of attending a couple of church services in rural communities near Ithaca in order to speak about the work of the Cancer Resource Center. It reminded me that churches, synagogues, mosques, and other faith communities are often the primary sources of support for people going through cancer. And, as



CRC wins “Town-Gown” Award from Cornell

The Cancer Resource Center’s collaboration with the Translator Interpreter Program in Cornell Public Service Center’s was awarded a “ToGo” Award on our project to translate the cultural norms of cancer care in the United States into multiple languages to facilitate communication between patients and their health care providers.



Chemo nurses and radiation therapists

Chemotherapy nurses and radiation therapists provide much of the hands-on care to cancer patients. As a result, these professionals have a profound impact on the quality of care that patients receive. I attend a weekly breakfast club for guys who have had cancer. I asked them to describe the qualities in a chemo nurse or



Stopping treatment is not giving up

I sometimes hear from individuals with advanced cancer who continue with aggressive treatment because their loved ones exhort them to “not give up.” Some family members go so far as to say that stopping treatment is the same as committing suicide. It’s not. I wish that we could reframe this discussion because when people choose



Don’t look back

It is easy to second guess yourself when you have cancer. It can take many forms: I wouldn’t have cancer if I had taken better care of myself. I should have gone to the doctor sooner. I should have chosen “watchful waiting” instead of aggressive treatment. Nearly everyone with cancer wonders if they would be