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



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



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



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



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



Arbonne Supports CRC

2 promotions offered through November 30:   Purchase a Primrose Polish lip gloss and $10 from each sale will be contributed to CRC. or Purchase a gift basket for a CRC Client undergoing treatment (Arbonne will wrap and deliver directly to CRC.) Click here to order from Arbonne. Questions: email swayze.sandra@yahoo.com



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



Helping those we don’t like

In my columns, I often suggest practical ways to help people with cancer. Giving support to nice people is relatively easy. You want to bring them soup and give them a hug. But contrary to what you see in the movies, not everyone with cancer is angelic. Some of us are cranky. Others are downright



One take on nontraditional cancer therapies

People often fall into two camps regarding the usefulness of nontraditional cancer therapies. Some people are irrationally exuberant in their support of these therapies: “This dandelion soup is going to cure my cancer!” Others are completely dismissive. As is usually the case, a balanced perspective is more sensible than either extreme. Nontraditional therapies include acupuncture,



In Memory of Carol John

Carol Knight John died last week. She had cancer, but she never let cancer define her. She was always participating in triathlons, climbing mountains or moving boulders in someone’s garden. I marveled at her energy and her ability to get so much life out of each day. Her level of activity was beyond what’s typical