Surviving cancer

The room I am sitting in is filled with oncologists and nurses and cancer administrators from some of the country's largest - and smallest - cancer centers. They have gathered here in Boston as part of the LIVESTRONG Survivorship Leadership Training Institute to talk about cancer survivorship and how to create programs that will help us move from cancer patient to cancer survivor as healthy individuals.As usual, I am in awe of these professionals who have devoted their lives to those of us struggling with cancer. They know, as do we who have been there, that it's not over when treatment is over. There are long-term and late effects. Survivorship programs are an idea whose time has come. And it's harder than you might think to make it happen. A few of the questions they are addressing include program design - is it a clinical program that is most valuable, where cancer patients arrive with survivorship care plans in hand to see physicians or nurses to be watched for second cancers and other physical issues? Or does the program address psychosocial needs of survivors as they struggle with fear of recurrence, fatigue, anxiety and all the other emotional challenges we face? Or is it a research program where the studies are conducted to say that we need survivorship plans to live fully after cancer and for the rest of our lives? It's the research that will ultimately get insurance companies to say there is benefit in paying for these programs. These are huge questions, and the 200 or so who are gathered are so passionate about helping people who are going through cancer. I can remember so well how abandoned I felt after treatment ended, when I lay awake at night and projected the absolute worst scenarios for my future. If only someone had told me to be prepared to live with the fear of recurrence, I could have battled the dark nights so much better.CURE has been committed to covering survivorship issues and will continue to bring you the latest in where we are.