There are nearly 12 million cancer survivors in the US alone (with the term 'survivor' defined as being from the day of diagnosis forward, without needing to reach any artificial milestone like 5 years past diagnosis or treatment), with this number continuing to increase annually.
There have been some efforts around the country to offer medical care through 'cancer survivorship clinics' that focus on the special needs of cancer survivors, but many have had limitations, such as one in the town where I currently live that refused to see me because my childhood cancer was not treated at that cancer center. No amount of 'splainin' how unreasonable that sounded to me, the patient, got me an appointment to be evaluated just 2 miles from my home several years ago when I really needed someone and/or a group of specialists to look at all my medical problems from oncology's long-view perspective and then help me coordinate the appropriate care with the various medical specialists at this same prestigious local institution.
Perhaps I will somehow have some long-term impact on this clinic, I don't know. I never got in to this particular clinic, and I have never tried to go back there again. Instead I went to Boston, finding my own specialized care and coordinating it with my own internist here in town. I confess that just thinking about the effort it has taken me over the years to figure this all out, and then continue to head to Boston on an annual basis for the past decade or so for my post-oncology survivorship care makes my brain weary (no matter how wonderful that doctor and her staff are).
So I was very happy to read about the recent opening of a new cancer survivorship clinic associated with Vanderbilt University that is geared up to welcome cancer survivors of ALL kinds, i.e., pediatric, adult, all cancers, and NO matter where or when you had your cancer treatments.
Thank you, thank you :) to the clear-thinking people at Vanderbilt who very likely conducted focus groups and found that my situation is not unique in any way!! I am not going to change the wonderful care I am currently receiving to head to Nashville, but I applaud your effort just the same for the cancer survivors who will head your way.
Their website does not yet list a dietitian (RD) on the staff of their clinic in spite of the fact that many if not most medical concerns for cancer survivors (both pediatric and adult) have a nutrition component that either compounds the long-term or late effect problem or could reduce the risk for future disease/side effect. However, the clinic did order 25 copies of my book A Dietitian's Cancer Story through AICR so they are definitely on the right track (yea! and again, thank you!). As they really gear up and get going, I hope an RD will be added to the clinic's staff, or if an RD is already on board, I hope the RD is included on their website along with their other valuable staff members. :)
Proceeds from the sale of my book (directly from AICR, your local book store, or from Amazon.com) go to my endowment at AICR in order to support future research focused on nutritional strategies to optimize long-term cancer survivorship and/or quality of life after a cancer diagnosis. As I leave for a quick mini-vacation to Seattle this week, one of the things I'll be packing to read on the airplane will be the research projects to review for my endowment at AICR to fund in 2012, which is always an enjoyable project on my 'to do list', both to do and to cross off. (Just an FYI, all individual contributions, from very large to very small, are also welcome additions to my endowment.)
Thanks again, Vanderbilt. I am sure your clinic will be successful and hopefully will also quickly become a model program for other cancer centers to follow to help the millions of cancer survivors optimize life after cancer. On behalf of all these millions of people, I thank you once more.
Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,
Diana Dyer, MS, RD