Three-Time Cancer Survivor’s Perspective: Insight and Advice for Others

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Topics include: Patient Stories , Mental and Emotional Well-Being and Self-Advocacy and Empowerment

In this Patient Power replay, three-time cancer survivor Pat Gavin explains why he was inspired to become an advocate and shares advice for fellow survivors. Pat discusses his relationship with his own primary care doctor in regards to his survivorship as well as advice for newly diagnosed patients and those considering clinical trials.

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Transcript

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. 

Pat Gavin:

Well, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with a lot of physicians and researchers. I’m a pretty active research advocate. I started doing that in Grand Rapids working with our local CCOP (Community Clinical Oncology Program), and the director introduced me to some national folks, so I do some things for the National Cancer Institute. I’m on a steering committee there. I also serve on two committees for ASCO. I’m on the Cancer Research Committee and the Community Research Forum at ASCO.

Like many people that have had cancer, once you get through it and you realize that you made it, I felt a tremendous need to give

back. And I thought working as a patient advocate was one way to do that. So I work both with cancer patients as well as with researchers, and it’s my small way of giving back for the miracle that I received. My initial prognosis was not very good, and I wasn’t expected to live, and here I am 10 years later with my wife of 46 years, four daughters, and eight wonderful grandkids.

Being a patient advocate is, first of all, advocating for yourself. And we need to get involved when we’re in treatment. Once we get beyond the point of treatment, there are so many people that like to be able to look to another person that’s heard those three awful words, you have cancer, and be able to say what was it like? I’ve had people tell me that my story of survivorship has given them hope, and that hope gives them a chance to do some different things and somehow either repair some of the things out of their past or make for a better future.

Well, first of all, my primary care doctor diagnosed all three of my cancers, and yes, he wasn’t part of my actual cancer treatment, but, of course, he got the reports all along. I’m now to the point where I’m mature enough in my cancer journey that I don’t see my oncologist or my melanoma doc or my prostate cancer doc very often. So the only doc I’m seeing is my primary care doc. So he teaches me a lot, but I think I’m teaching him a lot, too. I go to more conferences than he does, especially more cancer conferences, so I often will bring back things that I learn at these conferences, and he finds them helpful. So we have some great dialogues.

The main thing that I encourage people to do is talk to your physician about trials. When I introduced myself, I always say, “Hi, I’m Pat Gavin. I’m a cancer survivor. I’m alive today by the grace of God and the fact that I participated in a clinical trial.” Clinical trials should be looked at as a possible mode of treatment, one of the things that should be considered. So talk to your oncologist about it. Them knowing that you’re willing to participate may encourage them to dig a little deeper to see what may be out there. 

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 March 1, 2017