Monday, April 30, 2012

Normal is starting to come back

It's been a year now since we moved to the farm. Are all the boxes unpacked? Have we found everything yet? Have we sorted what we have unpacked and 'pitched' everything we don't need and should not have even moved? No, no, no, and probably no to many other things, too.

However, however, just last week a few things got done for the first time since we moved that made us feel rather settled in and well........back to normal. :)

We made waffles for lunch. So simple! My husband just said "wow, this is great". Waffles just seem to take so much time to make (even using my home-made waffle mix) that even though I knew where the waffle griddle was placed after being unpacked a year ago, I just had not taken the time until last week.

I finally sorted all the seeds I have collected and been saving for the past several years! Woohoo - seriously - doing this was a big deal as it meant that we might actually have time to plant and take care of our family garden this year. Sorting this huge box that was a messy hodge-podge of packages, envelopes, ziploc bags, jars, etc, had been put on the back burner for the past 3 years as we focused on getting the garlic crop at the farm up and running, repairing the house at the farm, finally moving to the farm, getting our other house ready to sell and sold !!, both sons were married, oh and I am sure there is more, much more of life that just meant that seed box was pushed to the back of the priorities. I have 35 types of heirloom bean seeds in addition to multiple kale varieties and lots of cool vegetables.

I cooked all the dried beans from my seed box that had no labels (why did I save them?? who can say......) and added some to our left-over risotto for tonight's dinner.

I started making my own bean sprouts again, using mung beans.

Tomorrow I might even make some bread, which we also have not done since we bought the farm in 2009. Making bread was very normal for us. The house will smell delicious. Next up we'll be getting back to also making our own yogurt. I think we might wait until next winter to take the time to make our own pasta again, but I did look longingly at our pasta maker today.

To balance, even out-run, all the 'no's', there are beginning to be lots of 'yes's', too!

And new things?

  • We have bluebird babies (a 'bucket list' item for me!), 
  • we've seen the large old Blanding's turtle ambling through our farm again this year, 
  • our 'blue hawk' or 'red-tailed blue jay' is back again this year - this blue jay's imitation of a red-tail hawk is perfect and his typical call - he takes his self-appointed job as 'town crier' very seriously
  • we have one female wild turkey that has adopted our farm, even taking a dust bath right in front of us!
  • we have thousands of tadpoles in our new pond, 
  • we've seen great blue heron tracks in the pond, 
  • I found one witch hazel shrub way back on the property where I have been removing invasive garlic mustard and also one currant vine growing in a nurse log in our woods, 
  • one trillium that I transplanted from our old home last year has survived the 'all you can eat deer buffet', and transplanted wood poppies, columbine, spiderwort, hostas, and some daylilies have also survived
  • 5 of our 8 transplanted rhubarb plants survived, 
  • all 8 baby spruce trees moved from our old home survived (they still need to find their permanent home)
  • we're almost done with the pond and drainage tile work, which means we are almost ready to put up our purple martin house near the pond (too late for successful attraction/nesting this year, but it will be up!)
  • we have finally installed the trickle irrigation system for our garlic fields - that only took 3 years of working through priorities, practicalities, and logistics :)
  • we are finally ready to get a teeny, tiny section of our landscaping done, which will be the section right outside of our bedroom window, so it will be the first thing I see and enjoy in the morning
  • Our farm website is up and functional and almost done, at I will then be ready to totally focus on finishing up the consolidation of my own new website and blogs. 
The list of what we are doing (or need to do) is still so long that it is good to focus for a day and a night on what feels normal, what feels good, what we have accomplished, what we are enjoying. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, April 27, 2012

ACS New Guidelines for Cancer Survivors

The American Cancer Society has updated their Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors, previously published in 2001 and 2006. The complete report is available free of charge.

I have not read it yet, but I recognized nearly every name on the list of authors and advisors, all researchers or clinicians who have been long-involved, in fact most of them have been pioneers leading the way in this field emphasizing the importance of nutrition and exercise on cancer survivorship long before the first report was issued.

I don't know yet if there is anything 'new' except to perhaps both reiterate and also strengthen the recommendations that weight matters, exercise matter, food matters, plus don't wait until your cancer therapy is over to begin incorporating some of these ultra-healthy changes into your life, instead begin as soon as possible (and within reason and ability) after a cancer diagnosis.

I hope the report indicates that handing a patient a pamphlet that says "eat right and exercise" is not enough, even with multiple good examples of how to do that. A better developed and coordinated approach to cancer survivorship is needed, being modeled after a 'cardiac rehab' program that helps a person develop the skills and confidence to approach and change many aspects of life (diet, exercise, handling of stress, prioritizing and developing - or redefining - a purposeful life, as a few necessary components) to approach life after cancer with the best odds for both increasing length of life and also quality of life.

I'll add this report to the growing pile of reading, which will only grow taller and taller for the next 6 months of our growing season. It's hard for me to read anything substantive that needs sustained attention before my head hits the pillow after working outside all day. In any case, I hope it provides some useful information to someone who can read it sooner than I can. I am doing better at catching up reading shorter (still needing thoughtful attention) poetry. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I'm trying my best.........

These are both generalizations, of course, but there is way more than a kernel of truth on both sides of this statement. Yes, I have been trying to make and inspire changes in both of these arenas, in addition to agriculture for many years now. As only one example, I remember asking my oncologist in 1995 why his nationally-ranked cancer center had no dietitian on staff, let alone staffed in a way that all ~10,000 unique patients (at that time) treated annually at this cancer center could have access to one. 

That cancer center thankfully now has some RDs (however still woefully understaffed), but the large (also highly regarded) community cancer center across town has no RD (none) dedicated to their oncology outpatients. 

I confess that I don't know what it's going to take to truly change either side of this statement. I used to wake up at night and find I was thinking about the barriers (real, perceived, or worse, created) to having RDs as full and equal professional members of truly comprehensive cancer treatment facilities, especially now that RDs can become CSO's, certified in oncology nutrition! And what cancer center/facility doesn't try to use that term 'comprehensive' when advertising their services? 

I also confess that I have now given up thinking about or working actively on this hope, which seems like a 'no-brainer' to me and to every person I have ever met with a cancer diagnosis (plus many who have not had to endure this themselves or with a loved one). The response from those who have not gone through the cancer treatment ordeal is usually something like "What???  There is no one addressing a person's individual nutritional needs after a cancer diagnosis? What? That makes no sense." Then what often follows is a little cynical and sad laugh with the comment and sigh....... "Oh well, why should I be surprised at that?" (Truthfully, I have not totally given up my dream of having RDs in cancer centers where they are needed, but instead I am hoping that some of the seeds I have planted while speaking around the country since 1997 will be nurtured and cultivated by others to achieve true comprehensive cancer care ..........)

Know your farmers, know your foods, nourish your health. I think that is the best I can personally and professionally do now, shifting my focus to cancer prevention by trying to make changes in my own little corner of the world, 'shaping our future from the ground up' (our farm's mission). 

To be honest though, there are two things about this photo that make me both very happy and hopeful: 1) the fact that one of my sons posted this photo on his Facebook page and 2) on the old Facebook format, this same son had listed Wendell Berry (poet, author, Kentucky farmer, activist, National Humanities Medal Winner - 2011) as someone who inspired him, which makes his mother sleep well at night and is what I'll be thinking about if I wake up tonight. :)

Step, step, step, I do believe there is hope for the future health of our communities, and it will be the young people leading the way. I am grateful beyond words to have the chance to finally be an 'old-new' organic farmers, but my husband and I will be playing supportive roles in the future. I am happy knowing that. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Follow-up Poem: Hooked

I could not let this comment get buried in my blog. I expect it could have been written by many of my readers, and I expect many of my readers will also deeply relate to the poem shared by this reader.

Here are my reader's words in response to my post A Morning Poem, followed by my response to her.


Someone heard this poem on the radio and told me it reminded them of my life. I hunted it down somewhere and I cried the first time I read it. It still reminds me of my life, even more so since surviving my own bout with cancer:


By Orval Lund
For Kent Cowgill

A trout sometimes leaps up
right out of the water
to take your fly, then dives
for rock, log, weeds, ledge,
anything shading sun
in its clear waterworld,
slicing your line in wild

geometry, hurling
its body into air
against your arcing rod.
Sometimes – face it – you end
life by taking it in hand
and cracking its head
so you can taste its gold,

but most of the time
you hold its silver
and release your death
from its jaw, full of awe
as it lies stunned on silt,
slips back into
its skin, vanishes.

It’s then you wonder why
you’re a creature who eats life
but also plays it in hand.
O Lord, help me to feel
The hook that plays me.
But so many times,
so many times, lets me go.

Thank you, thank you for sharing this poem, both arresting and liberating...........may you have years and years ahead of you being truly alive, with gratitude for today and a clear awareness of your place in it.

Cancer survivorship, being let go, maybe even again, offers us that opportunity, that gift.

Diana :)

If you wish to listen to this poem, it has also been read by Garrison 
Keillor on The Writer's Almanac, twice in fact, in both 1997 and 2000

I wonder how many of us, cancer survivor, life survivor, have such a 
touchstone, such a crystalizing moment. I remember mine like it was 
only an instant ago. It came like the sun finally breaking through the storm. 
After two weeks of crying over 'just everything', I realized I was giving cancer 
a chance to kill me twice. I instantly accepted that cancer might (maybe 
yes, but maybe not, but it might) kill me in the future, because I suddenly, 
finally, saw that I was allowing my fears of that possibility to ruin today, 
and tomorrow, and the next day. Well! Wow! Ok, now! Hmmm, I was not 
going to let that  happen, and I 'woke up', healed and alive and grateful 
for that moment, and all to come. 

It all sounds so simple, so logical, in retrospect. There is nothing simple, 
nothing 'logical' about the journey of cancer survivorship. I haven't met 
many survivors who just picked themselves up, put their glasses back on, 
and kept striding forward as if nothing had happened. 

I do not know how to advise or help anyone find their own touchstone, 
their own sudden awakening to the possibilities in life, losing fear of death, 
gratitude for all that is in-between. Mine did not come by reading a poem, 
but I can see how it could. Poems give us the richness of life, the 
possibilities of life, the courage for life, and hope, in as few words as possible. 

Which reminds me of the poem on the wall, right at the doorway to the 
chemo rooms at Evanston Hospital (IL) where I had my chemo in 1984-85. 
I always stopped to read it before walking into that room, finding a tiny bit 
of hope and courage in my heart:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words, 
And never stops at all,

This is just the first stanza of Emily Dickinson's poem Hope, all that was printed
and framed. However, you can read the rest of the poem here.  When our 
bluebirds perch outside my bedroom window singing in the morning, later 
flying around our farm, letting me peek into their box (one egg!!), my heart is 
singing with both happiness and hope. 

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row, poem by poem,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

PS - sorry about all the weird formatting above - blogger is changing things that I don't have time to figure out. When I do have time to finally get all my blogs and website consolidated and reviewed, that will be a huge thing 'off my plate'!. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A morning poem

I mentioned (I think) in an earlier post that I have begun to start my day at The Writer's Almanac by Garrison Keillor as he reads a bit about authors and a chosen poem, a much more soothing and inspiring way to start my day than looking at my Email or, much worse than my Email (which is really not bad, just too much of a good thing), reading the 'headlines' on Yahoo.

I figure that since I missed Mary Oliver until a month ago, I know there must be many poets (and other authors) I have missed. Some names are familiar, but I cannot say that I have read much of what Garrison Keillor highlights on this daily show, which makes me a bit sad, knowing I will never 'catch-up' but can only sample and savor the words and thoughts of these enduring authors. At least, I feel I will be partaking of the 'best of the best'.

Today's poem was The Starfish by Robert Bly. I sent that poem to a friend, the friend who first showed me tidal pools along the Pacific Ocean. I'll never forget the wonder of that day. We did not see a starfish, but I was looking for one. As a health care provider, I have always loved the Starfish Story by Loren Eisley, the young boy gently helping each 'beached' starfish get back to the sea, back home, back to health and wellness, but I am also that person and health care provider who worries and thinks about what caused those starfish to all 'beach', thus I have shifted professional focus to concentrate on changing the bigger system(s) that are promoting disease, i.e., beaching, rather than health.

I will never be the one person to entirely change 'the system(s)' where change is needed in so many ways, so many places in order to promote health, instead of disease, for our communities. However, that does not mean I should do nothing. I can do my part of the change by what I am doing, without even fully understanding or seeing the enormity of the problems. I am working more on 'systems' now, but working in tandem with many of my friends/colleagues who are helping each ill starfish get back to the sea. It takes all of us working together to create a balanced, healthier world.

I never had the opportunity to show my own children a starfish in a tidal pool. Life would truly be grand if I still have the chance to share this wonder with them, seeing a tidal pool rich with life, complete with a starfish, living a starfish life as it should be, connected to all the other life in that pool plus the wider ocean, not beached by the thousands for 'unnatural causes'.

I love starting my day with poetry. I find that listening to a poem makes me think, helps to give me courage and hope for the day, plus uplifts my heart. Yahoo (and most 'news' sources to be truthful) cause me to start my day by gnashing my teeth and/or breaking my heart.

I realize that I haven't yet shared the poem that won the Poetry Slam evening at the MOSES organic farming conference. I will do that in a later post. (so many ideas for posting, so little time with being a full-time farmer, too, and my memory cuts out on me more often than I like to admit, too) :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What writers and old-new farmers need

"The only advice I can give to aspiring writers is don't do this unless you're willing to give your whole life to it. Red wine and garlic also help." ~~ Michigan born author/poet Jim Harrison in Good Poems for Hard Times, selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor, 2005. 

Love this quote - works for 'old-new' farmers, too! I added the emphasis. I cannot imagine that Jim would mind. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sutra's Scrumptious Meal in Seattle

In my previous post about our short trip to Seattle for some much needed R&R (with no plans except to hang out with our younger son and daughter-in-law - and sometimes with their turtle, too), I mentioned we ate at a small restaurant named Sutra, featuring vegetarian recipes using locally grown organic food, served in a community style.  Scrumptious is not really a word that fully covers the experience. Perhaps adding sublime enlarges the feeling of eating food so lovingly grown, prepared, and served by a host of hands and hearts, from field to fork.

The photo below is too small to read the line I wanted to remember, which says Sutra means 'the thread that weaves together'. A large complex tapestry was my favorite visual image when under-going chemotherapy in 1995, envisioning each part of my life, how I was connected to large and small parts of the image, how each friend or family member was weaving their own small part or thread together to make the whole hold together. I could not have made it through that third cancer without each thread.

I know I included a link to the menu on my previous post, but because seasonal foods are used, the menu will change on that link. So here is what we ate that night with a few photos from my low-tech phone:

First Course
Leek-Parsnip-Tarragon-Fresh Carrot Juice Soup 
served aside Grilled Arugula Rappini 
with a Balsamic Reduction & Truffle Oil 
and Fennel Slow-Braised in Imbue (local, bittersweet vermouth)

Second Course
Cashew Cheese-Roasted Cauliflower-Stuffed Celery Root Cannelloni 
with a Saffron-Apricot-Bulgarian Chile Sauce 
finished with Smoked-French Green Lentils

Third Course
White Rose Potato-Nettle-Gnocchi served with 
Roasted Brussels Sprouts-Hedgehog Mushrooms-Oil cured Olives-Spring Onions & Green Garlic served with a Wild Mushroom-Marjoram-Hempseed Sauce and Fried Capers

Fourth Course
Pecan-Fig-Crusted Chocolate Ganache Torte 
with a Cacoa Brittle Crumble 
and a Licorice Fern Root Glaze

No course (including paired Washington wines) was rushed, the evening was casual, the course sizes were all just right, no one left feeling hungry or 'stuffed' (although I confess to loving the feeling of being full and satisfied), and everyone had a favorite component to the meal.  

I loved the soup best, which was served in a clear small tumbler type of bowl, so one could truly see the orange carrot soup layered on top of the whitish leek-parsnip-tarragon soup, i.e. colors and flavors were separated, at least until the spoon first entered the bowl. Here is another confession. The soup was SO good, and that 'bowl' being shaped like a small glass found me actually taking the 'bowl' to my mouth and skipping the spoon altogether for my second taste. Of course I immediately realized what 'poor form' that was as soon as I did it and employed the spoon again after a good laugh, but the point is, the appearance and flavors of this soup, initially separated but then mingled, were a knock-out winner.

Everything else that evening was just as good, but tasting and now remembering tasting that soup as the first course is like remembering how falling in love just sort of mixes you up and then changes your view of the world and your place in it, and maybe even how it flusters you and then you find yourself drinking your soup instead of carefully using a spoon to impress this guy, well, at least look 'normal'! :)

All this food is much fancier than any recipe included on my website or blogs. We eat much simpler food than this and don't go out to eat much at home anymore for a variety of reasons, so this experience was a real treat to see what creative chefs can do with a wide variety of local, seasonal ingredients. It is likely that some of them (like the parsnips, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) were last Fall's cool weather crops still in good storage conditions, but the nettles and green garlic were definitely harvested very recently.  

If you head to Sutra in Seattle, I suggest that you make reservations although the website says they are not necessary. As a bonus for those making reservations, my son was called sometime that day to double check that we were still coming, but just as importantly, to inquire about food allergies and intolerances in order to make any last minute adjustments to some menu items. How is that for caring about the enjoyment of what is being served and eaten? :) 

Cultivate your life (along with your local small farms and chefs) - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A new bird arrives and reminds me of a new friend

A common theme in Mary Oliver's poetry is 'look, pay attention'. I think I have already mentioned in a past blog post that since I have only recently arrived at Mary Oliver's table, so to speak, to finally partake of the bounty of her poetry, I must continue to remind myself that I have time to savor each poem and do not need to gobble or 'inhale' this nourishing 'food for the soul'. In fact, if I never get to reading all of her poems, no matter, I know that each poem I do read is sustaining all in itself.

Which leads me back to to 'look, pay attention', by which I believe she is telling us to notice and appreciate what is in our life, right now, this very minute. It might be something always there, but newly noticed, or something or someone completely new that we may never see again.

Case in point. I met a woman seated next to me while flying to Seattle. I will remember her forever. Her name is Nancy, and she and her husband were also flying to Seattle to visit their grand-daughter's classroom for Grandparents' Day. We got to chatting, and I quickly realized Nancy was asking me the BEST questions about our farm, what we do, why we do it, what is means, etc. etc. Those sound like common questions, except they weren't. Each question was asked in a way that showed she was actually paying attention, listening to what I was saying and thinking maybe a million thoughts to find a follow-up question that always made me find just the right response by sorting among the million thoughts in my brain, too.

I cannot actually remember many of her thoughtful questions, but I remember one of them. It surprised me, it gave me great pause, made me think, made me think deeply, made me think 'why not?', and then gave me a great smile. Nancy asked if I sang to our ~20,000 garlic plants while out in the fields.

I finally turned to her and said something like, "No. Why not? because I am listening, listening for and listening to the songs of the universe, the songs of our farm, the songs in my heart". I can sing, but instead, I hope my hands are transferring the songs of gratitude, love, and happiness I am hearing and feeling to our garlic while they are being planted, mulched, 'fluffing' their mulch, weeded, harvested, hung up to dry, or cleaned to sell, so when they are lovingly passed on to our customers, those people also feel and hear some of those songs of happiness and peace from our place in the universe.

Which leads me to this morning, stepping out onto our front porch to say hi to a friend who had driven up, and immediately feeling my heart just burst with the joy of hearing the first Eastern towhee of the year singing its song "Drink your tea!" just as clear as a bell, just a few yards away in the brushy field adjacent to our driveway, right on time, not fooled by the strange warm then cold weather Michigan has had during the past 6 weeks. I had been listening, listening, listening for the past several weeks, wondering if it would come early like so many other birds and plants have done. No, last year it came on April 18, during the night it snowed in Michigan! I posted photos of it on my blog, where winter just would not quit (so different this year, as winter, as we think of it, never really came).

Here is where you can see a beautiful photo of an Eastern towhee and also scroll down to listen to its heart-captivating song.

So Nancy, even though we may never meet again, I enjoy adding you to my ever enlarging group of new friends, the people I have met over the past 15 years since publishing my book, people for whom (in some way, shape, or form) cancer has brought into my life, people I wish lived just down the street, next door, or behind me. A cancer diagnosis (or a heart attack, an auto accident, any 'near miss') is that special opportunity to 'look, pay attention', notice what makes you happy and notice how you can share that happiness, beauty, and kindness.

I will think of you, Nancy, each and every time I pay attention and listen to our farm's towhees singing, instead of singing my own song. I will miss them when they finish singing sometime in July or early August, at which point I will find something else to look for, pay attention to, listen for another song, a song that brings me happiness and connects me with the many mysteries of our life, our 'one wild and precious life' (The Summer Day, Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems, 1992).

And to those of you who have worked in the fields with me, please know and understand how much I love being with you, sharing my work with you, how much I love talking with and listening to you, but how very difficult it is for me to turn off or set aside this singing I hear, these sounds I may not know. (Sara, I still have not identified that call we heard two summers ago! Bird? frog? or??). If I dropped the ball and said something too casual because I was not totally focused on what you said, I have been deeply grateful for being given a second chance to redeem myself, to 'look, pay attention', and listen more deeply to what you are hearing or thinking about. We each hear the universe differently, and I truly love seeing it, hearing it, and learning through your eyes, ears, and heart, too. Thank you for sharing so much with me. :)

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Supper in Seattle

This is just a very short blog post about a super supper in Seattle!! at the vegetarian restaurant named Sutra.

My husband and I are currently in Seattle visiting our younger son and his wife before we hit the ground running on the farm next week. Last night we ate at Sutra where the chef came out to introduce the menu but started by giving thanks to the farmers who supply his food and preserve our soil. I blinked away tears of both surprise and gratitude for that deep honor of public recognition.

The food was amazing to say the least, with its creativity, visual delight, taste, and satisfaction. Here is the menu and some photos. Because the menu changes regularly due to the seasonality and availability of the food, I will actually post the menu (I grabbed one to take home) and blog more about this experience when I have more time. :)

PS - we also had a late afternoon treat at the vegan donut shop called Mighty-O, which is very popular in Seattle (my son was shown this hot-spot very soon after moving here) and was a huge treat for me. I cannot remember the last time I ate a donut, but this was vacation :), and I had already done lots of hiking up and down, up and down some pretty steep trails at Discovery Park that afternoon.

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

PS - here is a link I just found (4.26.12) about the fact that Mighty-O Donuts is going to become a certified organic kitchen, which is no easy undertaking, but the owner is committed to doing this. I commend him for doing so, even if I cannot say that knowing those donuts are organic would tempt me to eat them everyday. However, I will look forward to my next donut experience on our annual trip to Seattle as a very very special treat. :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Food Blessing

We had friends over last night for dinner, which we enjoyed very much. I was happy to read a newly found food blessing before we ate, one I found in the poet Mary Oliver's book The Swan. Here it is:

Beans Green and Yellow

In fall
it is mushrooms
gathered from dampness
under the pines;
in spring
I have known 
the taste of the lamb
full of milk
and spring grass;
it is beans green and yellow
and lettuce and basil
from my friends' garden–
how calmly,
as though it were an ordinary thing,
we eat the blessed earth. 

I added the italics to the last 3 lines. I don't know how Mary Oliver would feel about that. 

I will add this poem to my collection of beautiful quotations about soil, earth, dirt. As spring really swings into full gear, I hope you take time to smell the earth as it is warming up and gearing up to give us life again in so many forms. 

Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row,

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cancer Survivorship Clinic for All Survivors

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 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