Finding the Right Tools Along Your Cancer Journey

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Topics include: Treatments and Understanding

Cynthia Shimizu, LCSW and Katie Brown, Certified Patient Navigator discuss how a diagnosis of cancer can be a life-changing experience. Emotions are endless, and each reaction is unique to the individual. Cynthia and Katie share the importance of the care team, as they become so important and intricate with their support for the patient emotionally, medically and also where treatment is concerned. It is important to remember there are no quick fixes, but there is so much hope when it comes to treatment and survival, especially through self-education and connecting with current patients and survivors. 

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

So the swirling emotions, not everybody has it. I was talking to one gentleman who said he’s newly diagnosed.  He was in our green group I think it was. And I said, “Do you feel like you were hit by a truck?” And he said, “No, I’m okay.”  So it’s different for different people.  But for people where these emotions come up, how do you start to get a handle on it, Cynthia? 

Cynthia Shimizu:               

One day at a time.  I’ve learned that from people I’ve been talking to the last 16 plus years that I’ve been here.

One day at a time.  And once people find out that they’re diagnosed with lung cancer, that’s the day that they start the cancer care journey of learning their new normal. This is terminology I’ve learned from patients and survivors. Discovering your new normal.  All bets are off.  You’re learning new ways of coping and living from day to day.

It’s very common to have—well; it’s expected to have emotional reactions to that diagnosis. And people do describe it in very different ways.  When somebody tells me, “I’m fine, I’m not sad, I’m not anxious, I have no fears,” then I’m worried because that’s very atypical.

People can be scared by the emotions that they’re experiencing. They’re so powerful. They don’t know how to contain it. They don’t know how to share it. And that’s part of this learning curve. So people are not only expected to go to medical school, but they’re also kind of expected to go to the school of feeling the feelings and dealing with the emotions, learning how to cope, cope with distress.

Life is stressful. No doubt about it. Life with cancer is extra stressful. And if you feel that life from day to day is becoming unmanageable to the point of a level of distress, definitely, we can help you. It doesn’t have to get to that degree.  But there are different treatment modalities to help people who are having a very stressful time.

So again, keeping in touch with your treatment team, letting them know what’s happening in your life. Some people have a great support community. Some of our panelists have described that earlier.  But I meet plenty of people who are living alone. They have no caregivers. They have very few resources. And it’s extra tough in that circumstance. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that everybody’s experience is unique.

Every single one of you in this room may have different challenges, different perspectives on how you’re going to handle this. And again, just keeping us abreast of how we can help is the best approach. No quick fixes. If you think about it, medical treatments continue on for months, years. I think you should expect emotional therapy, so to speak, emotional treatments, emotional adjustments are also going to carry on in a parallel fashion.

So it’s part of what it means to be human. 

Andrew Schorr:                  

Katie, did you have a comment?

Katie Brown:     

I do.  I take calls from newly diagnosed people all the time that call into LUNGevity.  And everybody is unique.  Everybody is very individual.  Some people find some comfort in knowing a lot about their diagnosis, getting educated about that, getting educated about treatments or clinical trials.

They can visit Patient Power. They can visit LUNGevity. And we have videos on immunotherapy. And we have videos about clinical trials and all of these different things. And that’s part of your medical school training that you have to go through or that those people go through.  Once they know what they’re facing, those people seem to be a little more at ease with taking the next steps and then building their support community.

And then there are other people that I talk to that they’re not going to do this in-depth investigation of what their treatments are or anything like that. What they want to know is is there somebody out there with the same cancer that they have that has survived? And when they get matched with those people, and when they talk to those people, that really brings them a lot of hope and a lot of support. And I think sometimes when you feel that peace, that hope, and that support, then you become a little bit more empowered to become educated about your disease.

So everybody is really different. It’s about finding out what it is that you need to help you along your journey.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on May 29, 2015