Why chemotherapy cheerleader?
Since the time I started practicing as a kid’s cancer doctor (pediatric oncologist for those of you that prefer that I use the proper terms) I often have described myself as a chemotherapy cheerleader. It took 15 years of medical training post collage in order to become junior faculty at a large academic medical school/hospital in Texas. Interestingly, the most important part of my job, turned out to be the part that was deemphasized in training. That is the chemotherapy cheerleader part.
Incase you have never experienced getting chemotherapy or cancer fighting toxic medicine it SUCKS. (Trust me here…not only have I prescribed a good bit of it but I also experienced it first-hand in my own victorious battle against cancer …more on that later.) Right when you are dealing with side effects… relentless nausea, puking, pain, hair falling out, sleepiness, feeling crappy and this list goes on; you need to harness all your mental powers to focus on destroying this cancer. But what is GREAT about chemotherapy is that it CURES many many cancers everyday so that people like me and you can go back to our everyday lives and LIVE!!! So I ask again, what is a chemotherapy cheerleader? The persons who cheers and advocates for us during our treatment battle. This is the person who strategizes with you on how to deal various ups and downs both physical and mental. A chemotherapy cheerleader is at your side during your journey, and can clearly picture the day that you can toast to your own victories.
Why I want to start this website?
Since my own battle with cancer, I have often been contacted by people going through cancer therapy for advice. From how to deal with long hospitalizations, to communicating with children about illness, my advice seems to be welcomed and appreciated and I am grateful to provide any insight where I can. My experience with cancer gave me insight into the adult oncology world. It can be a different world then the pediatric oncology world, a subject I hope to explore further in posts. I brought many of the techniques I saw parents and children using for dealing with cancer to my own adult experience. I realized children can provide a lot of inspiration and creativity to coping and tackling problems.
It can be overwhelming for folks to navigate this treatment and there are many different challenges. I hope my unique prospective can provide a little bit of insight, support, advocacy, and love to you no matter if you’re a patient, a family member, a friend, or a healthcare professional. I hope that my posts will focus on different aspects and relate to various audiences whilst maintaining a level of exploration and interest for all involved. Timing is also right for starting this website since as much I love being a pediatric oncologist, I am currently taking a break from practicing and I am having an adventure living in Doha Qatar. We moved here for my husband’s job. (Only to move back to Texas single again, a little too many changes for the start of a partnership.) The part of medicine I miss more then intellectual challenge of diagnosis, making treatment plans, etc….is just the everyday interaction with patients and families and yes, being a chemotherapy cheerleader.
My cancer story:
In October of 2009 at age 36, I had just finished with my training for a little over a year and was Assistant Professor (and board certified) in Pediatric Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant at a large children’s hospital in Houston Texas. I worked as both a clinical physician and cancer biology researcher. At the time, I was an avid gym goer, mostly ate a healthy vegetarian diet, and had never tried a cigarette. I worked long hours, played longer hours (blues dancing is a major passion!) with very little symptoms of the diagnosis to come. I went to a neurologist for a funny feeling in my hands and feet. The next day this neurologist was driving in the car with his wife and dreading phoning me to tell me I had multiple tumors. Luckily I was at work when he called and surrounded by oncologists. Over the next few days I got my work up and then left for a vacation in Hawaii before returning to be admitted to the hospital. An admission that with just a handful of occasional breaks would last for almost a year and half of for multiple rounds of intense chemotherapy and a surgery to remove my adrenal gland encased in tumor. There would be a second surgery to remove approximately 2/3 of my liver that was studded with multiple tumors, and lastly radiations probes into my spine another location of the spread of my cancer. Over this course there were many complications and other treatments. Many times I was given just months to live. My diagnosis was stage 4 adrenalcortical carcinoma (ACC) and if you looked at the history of 100 patients with this disease less then 10 are long term survivors, but I knew I was not 100 patients but just ONE so with that there was always hope. What got me through is an amazing group or friends and family and an amazing medical team led by my very supportive oncologist. Over the treatment process, I had less supportive experiences, like a second opinion at one of the largest cancer hospitals in the US. They told me to stop treatment and go to hospice, but as someone who understood cancer and myself, I was confident to reject this advice. I continued my intense treatment plan and now I have been in full remission (yes, NO CANCER) for just over 3 years and counting!
Sending everyone strength and love.