Only 10 Seconds to Care: Help and Hope for Busy Clinicians

CURE, Winter 2009, Volume 8, Issue 4

Wendy Harpham, MD, relays stories and insights from the patient's perspective to help professionals better understand their patients' needs in Only 10 Seconds to Care.

Wendy Harpham, MD, remains a unique being in the world of cancer survivorship. The fact that she’s alive at all is the first aspect of this amazing woman’s list of accomplishments. Now approaching 20 years as a non-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, Harpham—who had a solo practice in internal medicine before her diagnosis—has been on the front lines of cancer survivorship since before anyone even referred to patients as “survivors.” Her multiple recurrences, each one staunched by another round of the latest findings, gives testament to her endurance and offers living proof of the advances we have made in treating lymphoma over the past two decades. It has also given Harpham a view of cancer that few get: a clinician turned survivor turned writer.

Not satisfied with merely living, Harpham redirected her life to patient and physician education early on in her journey. The goal of her early books was to help patients understand whatever aspect of surviving she had mastered at that time, whether it was parenting with cancer or finding joy and happiness in a world turned upside down on a regular basis. Ultimately, Harpham coined the phrase “healthy survivorship” and identified the keys: knowledge, hope, and action.

Only 10 Seconds to Care

departs from the patient-to-patient guidance as Harpham offers her exquisite understanding of both sides of the bed rail to help professionals understand, as she says in the forward, “about how words and actions that take less than 10 seconds to say or do can change a patient’s world.”

In this role she says she serves as a sort of medical “spy” for health care professionals as she relays stories and insights from the patient’s perspective to help them offer their patients the skills and information to become healthy survivors.

Of course, in the essays she writes from her vast knowledge and connections with cancer survivors, Harpham teaches with the moments and examples we all know so well, and in doing so gives us insight into the challenges health care providers face today. It is a chance for survivors to eavesdrop on the very real human beings who comprise our medical teams, to understand their struggle in ways that make us better patients.

—Dr. Harpham coined the term "Healthy Survivor" while dealing with her recurring lymphoma. She discusses how to get good care and live as fully as possible on her blog, Dr. Harpham on Healthy Survivorship (www.wendyharpham.typepad.com). Learn more about her speaking, advocacy and writing at www.wendyharpham.com.