blog_073109Caroline Hale, of Nashville, is an incredibly articulate recent college graduate who is an exemplary cancer survivor. I was delighted to have her as a guest on our Cancer Survivorship webcast earlier this week, sponsored by Vanderbilt Medical Center. We asked Caroline if she would write a guest blog. She responded with her usual passion to use her medical experience to help others.

It is indisputable that the rise in cancer cure rates since the mid 1900s is an outstanding accomplishment by the medical community. If I had been diagnosed with stage III Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the 1960s, it is unlikely that I would have survived. I am grateful that I live in this day and age, and that cancer fighting agents had been discovered when my cancer was diagnosed in April of 2000. I will be forever indebted to the countless dedicated people who have worked tirelessly to make the rise in cancer cure rates possible. Simply put, I am blessed to be alive today.

I am 22 years old and one of the fortunate cancer patients whose body responded to treatment. It is completely unjustifiable that I am alive and several people I met while in treatment lost their battles. While I am conscious of this grave reality every day and experience a sense of remorse and guilt in knowing this, I still have my life ahead of me. It is for this reason that SURVIVORSHIP CARE is of utmost importance to me, and all other cancer patients who survived their battle with this horrendous disease.

The two-year treatment I endured to kill the ravenous cancer in my body took a significant toll on me physically and psychologically. After my treatment ended, I was 15, a soon-to-be sophomore in high school, but to say that I was like my classmates would be entirely wrong. The physical and psychological effects from treatment will likely continue throughout my life. If there were not a place for me to seek medical advice about the after-effects of my cancer treatment, I would feel that the medical community had wronged me, my family, and all others who have been touched by this disease. It might sound harsh to state this, but it is truly how I feel. It would be unacceptable to have literally pumped my body with chemicals so toxic that handling with gloves was a universal regulation, and then not provide me with adequate care once I survived the cancer. If the chemicals I received had to be handled with gloves, I cannot imagine what large dosages did to my internal organs.

I am immeasurably grateful to the oncologists, scientists, researchers, and community leaders who have made SURVIVORSHIP care a priority. The REACH for Survivorship Program at Vanderbilt provides my family and me with an indescribable comfort. I now know there are people committed to helping me cope with the issues I currently face, and will continue to face, throughout my life.

I have come to realize it is equally important for me to be an advocate for my own health as it is for me to rely upon the expertise of the medical community. After all, how could I expect for someone to be the sole voice for me when I am wholly capable of providing a voice for myself? It is my belief that when one discusses SURVIVORSHIP, the importance of ‘self-advocating’ cannot be over-emphasized. It is my responsibility to develop healthy lifestyle habits, regardless of the daily struggles caused by my treatment. I am confident that the combination of self-advocacy and the medical community’s devotion to SURVIVORSHIP care will prove highly beneficial to the quality of life for everyone who has been touched by cancer.

Andrew and Patient Power, I deeply appreciate your efforts to bring SURVIVORSHIP CARE to the forefront of the world’s attention!

Caroline Hale