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Taking Back Control

February 2019 Vol 5 No 1
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer,
Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Co-Developer of Work Stride—Managing Cancer at Work
Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions

Hello everyone and welcome to the February 2019 issue of CONQUER! There is so much to tell you about this issue. We always have patient stories, but this time we have 2 unusual stories about people who were originally told they didn’t have cancer, yet shortly thereafter learned it was misinformation. How horrific is that? But, it happens. One story is by a man who was finally diagnosed with prostate cancer, who was able to find good within all the bad. The other story is by a young woman who found a large lump in her breast, was told it was not cancer, and then learned it was. Both stories teach us about patient safety, the importance of being in good, credible medical hands, and how to cope with the roller coaster highs and lows of these experiences. Another patient story is about an MVP baseball player who used his career to help him take on multiple myeloma.

We would be remiss if we didn’t provide readers tools for reducing anxiety and improving well-being, so read about the benefits of exercise and yoga. No, you don’t have to buy a gym membership or become a yoga expert. There are simple ways you can help yourself by practicing the basics.

Another article is about “how to breathe”—yes, how breathing influences our mental health and physical well-being. We breathe all the time but rarely think about it; this article will help you observe your breathing and reduce your anxiety. This is especially helpful when getting ready for a medical procedure or receiving test results.

Read the article about the Cancer Warrior Alliance, an organization founded to help provide needed resources to patients with cancer. The author lost her mother to cancer and remembers her as a warrior who persisted through adversity.

In the survivorship section, read about the very personal, and professional, decision of whether to disclose a cancer diagnosis at work. This article was interesting to me on a personal level, because I co-developed an employee benefit for Johns Hopkins University employees called “Work Stride–Managing Cancer at Work.” It addresses these issues among others to support employees diagnosed with cancer and to educate managers on how to be supportive. Although designed for the Hopkins family, as I call them, they now offer this benefit to businesses and corporations across the country. There are good reasons to disclose, and there are good reasons not to disclose. I also preach to my patients with cancer not to give any more of themselves to this disease than is absolutely required. Don’t let it take away your personal time, professional time, social time, or family time—cancer doesn’t deserve it.

Another interesting survivorship article is about giving yourself permission to grieve. Not because you are dying, but because having cancer robs you of certain things, which are different for each patient. It may be hair loss, or losing a breast, losing one’s sex drive, or being so tired that you lose the opportunities you had before to be active and energetic.

Finally, we want to leave you with some inspiration. Read the article about the importance of living in the present. This may sound Pollyanna-like, but it isn’t. We spend so much time looking ahead that we often don’t enjoy the here and now—this very moment. So take a pause, silence your phone, and look around you. And breathe. Make an effort to be in the present more often.

As winter begins to wind down (I hope!) and spring starts budding around us, I hope you enjoy the coming change of season, and practice some of the things you will have learned from reading this issue. Breathe and be well.

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