Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Coping with Stress and Cancer

cancer fatigueCancer can create a great deal of stress as individuals try to understand their diagnosis, navigate treatment and manage follow-up care. Feelings of anger, sadness, worry, fear, as well as experiences of questioning personal values and beliefs, wondering about the meaning of life, and having challenges in relationships are all common. It is a lot for any one person to manage!

There are little things you can do to help manage your spiritual and emotional stress while you are living with a cancer diagnosis and undergoing treatment:

1. Accept a New Normal

It can be very frustrating when you’re no longer able to do the things you could do before cancer treatment. It may be helpful to acknowledge your current limitations and to work toward accepting a new normal.

  • Modify favorite activities so you can still enjoy the things you love
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Set small goals and celebrate small successes
  • Be honest about how you feel and what you can do with yourself and your loved ones
  • Find new activities you can enjoy

2. Seek Out People Who Support

When you are living with cancer, many people may be genuinely concerned and want to express their love and care. Sometimes, people may be unsure of how to act, or what to say or do to help. You may find, at times, that you need to manage other people’s feelings relating to your diagnosis. This can create an unnecessary burden for you!

Pay attention to the people you surround yourself with, and spend time with the people that can support you without adding additional burden. It is absolutely okay to decline offers to help, and you are not obligated to share details about your journey that you do not want to share. Perhaps you might not be up for visitors, but you could use help with practical tasks around home. Some ideas may be making a dinner, helping with minor house maintenance, or running an errand for your caregiver.

3. Connect to Your Spiritual Health

Engaging your spirituality is the action of connecting to what you value most. It can take many different forms, such as prayer, meditation, engagement in religious ritual or worship, or it could be sitting quietly on a porch, going fishing or taking a quiet walk around the block. Your spirituality, in whatever form it takes, is important. Engaging with your spirituality can help you reconnect, recharge, and better manage stressful situations. Engaging your spirituality can help you reflect on that which matters most to you.

Start small by dedicating 5-10 minutes every day to an activity that helps you reconnect with what you value and what gives you meaning. Be willing to try a few new things to find what brings you peace and comfort.

4. Remember You Are Not Alone – Lean on Someone

It’s impossible to manage everything on your own — especially during cancer. Find someone with whom you can openly and honestly share how you’re feeling, without the fear of being judged. That may be a close friend, family member, a spiritual health clinician, religious provider, or a licensed therapist.

Visit our website if you’d like to talk with someone from our spiritual health team.

For more information, call HealthConnection at 404-778-7777 or contact your primary care physician.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia, the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit emoryhealthcare.org/cancer or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.

Caring for the Caregiver: Support for Caregiving Family Members and Friends

Cancer CaregiverCaring for a loved one with cancer is an emotional journey. Caregivers often experience the stress and anxiety of a loved one’s cancer diagnosis and treatment, and because they are not the person undergoing treatment, they may feel reluctant to share the way they are impacted. Wanting all the focus to stay on their loved one’s care, they may not reach out for necessary help.

But with so much on their plates — caregiving, managing a household, paying bills, caring for children and even holding down a full-time job — this juggling act can take a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual toll. That’s why it’s critical that caregivers take time to rest and recharge.

If you are a caregiver of someone living with cancer, remember that the better care you take of yourself, the better you’ll be able to care of your loved one.

1. Share Your Feelings

As a caregiver, you may feel anxious, irritable, scared, frustrated, worried or sad. It may be difficult to share those feelings because you feel the need to “be strong” or don’t want to increase the burden for your loved one going through cancer treatment. You may hide these very real emotions and, as a result, you may struggle more intensely.

Instead of bottling up your emotions, find a safe and welcoming outlet for them, such as another friend, family member, spiritual health clinician, social worker, or a religious provider. It can be extremely helpful to make a positive connection with others so that you can share your feelings honestly and openly in a safe place without fear of judgment — and so you can continue to support your loved one on his or her journey.

2. Ask for Help

It can be difficult to ask for help when a loved one is going through a health crisis like cancer. Even though people are constantly asking how they can help or what they can do, you may feel the impulse to pull inward and ride out the storm alone. It may even feel overwhelming to simply figure out what help can look like.

Challenge yourself to say “yes” to help more often. Take a moment to think about what you can delegate and what would make your life a little easier. That may include help with:

  • Small jobs around the home
  • Pre-made dinners
  • Cleaning the dishes
  • Folding laundry
  • Grocery shopping
  • Picking up kids from school or practice

These are the sorts of tasks that someone could easily jump in to assist with.

3. Assign a Communication Point Person

One of the most challenging aspects of caring for someone else is fielding well-intentioned calls, texts and emails from others interested in updates and how they can help. That alone can take a great deal of time and energy to share news — good and bad — and answer questions.

Instead of taking that burden on yourself, assign one family member or friend to be the communication point person for the entire family. Then, you just need to update one person and they can share the news with everyone else. Work together to establish parameters, such as:

  • Ask the communication point person to assign “jobs” to those who ask how they can help. Share what would be most helpful, and then let your point person coordinate tasks and timing.
  • Set boundaries about when your loved one and you need a break from phone calls and visitors. Communicate those parameters — whether it’s the day of or after treatment, or certain hours in the evening, morning or over the weekend — so that others know what to expect and when you’ll be available.
  • Be clear in communication so your point person has the information he or she needs to answer questions.

4. Take Time for Yourself

It can be hard to take time for yourself when you feel like you need to spend all your time with your loved one. Focusing on yourself can help you rest, recharge, and ultimately be a better support. Here are a few simple ways you can take care of yourself:

• Set aside 5-15 minutes every day just for you. That could be during a morning cup of coffee, good book at night, or a quick walk outside. Write it down, schedule it and communicate your intentions so you stick to it.

As difficult as it may be to step away, it can take an emotional toll on both you and your loved one to be together 24/7. A walk around the hospital or block gives you both a chance for a little alone time and to reconnect with yourself.

• Ask a family or friend to visit with your loved one so you can do something you enjoy. You may feel guilty about getting out of the house while a loved one is sick, but it’ll help improve your own emotional and spiritual health.

Meet a friend for coffee or lunch, browse a bookstore by yourself, or head to a favorite park. Whatever it is, just be sure to set a little time so you can enjoy something you love.

Support is Here

Caregivers are welcome and encouraged to talk with Spiritual Health at Emory Healthcare and the Winship Cancer Institute. They’re here to listen and support patients and their caregivers wherever they may be on their cancer journey. Visit our website if you’d like to talk with someone from our spiritual health team.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia – the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit emoryhealthcare.org/cancer or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.

 

The Spiritual Side of Cancer Treatment

A cancer diagnosis is nothing short of overwhelming.

In addition to concerns about coordinating treatment for the physical condition, emotions brew in the patient and family members. Fear, anger, and a feeling of being alone are common reactions.

When facing cancer, one mustn’t neglect the spiritual side of treatment.

Caroline Peacock, LCSW, MDiv, Manager of Spiritual Health at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, shares the importance of having someone to talk to about the spiritual side of the cancer diagnosis. “We believe in supporting the whole person in their care. Having a spiritual health clinician attend to the patient and family members helps them to know we care about all of them—all of their personhood—and that we want to support them in comprehensive care.”

Spiritual Doubts & Faith Crises

Many cancer patients experience an urge to be strong and put on a brave face. It’s tough to express one’s spiritual doubts and emotions to friends and family. A spiritual health clinician can serve as a pressure valve, allowing patients to express the suffering and angst they may not be able to comfortably share with friends or family.

“If a person has a particular faith background or spirituality he or she ascribes to, we support that individual in the expression of that spirituality. It can really help patients cope when they’re going through a terribly difficult time like this,” explains Peacock.

Spiritual health clinicians don’t prescribe a particular religious practice but rather help individuals connect to what gives them hope and a sense of connection. For those with a specific faith, community leaders in that faith are accessible to visit and provide spiritual support.

Cancer may also prompt a crisis of faith. Spiritual health clinicians make space to explore these crises by acknowledging how confusing and frightening the diagnosis may be.

“Patients can then further explore how difficult it is to be undergoing this crisis of faith and it allows them to come to their own answer within their own framework for how they understand their situation,” says Peacock.

Spiritual health clinicians willingly listen when patients experience spiritual struggles tied to their cancer diagnosis. Patients receive non-judgmental support, and can even explore some of the thoughts that may feel difficult to bring up in a religious context.

Patient-to-Patient Care

An interesting form of spiritual support can occur between patients. “When two patients are receiving treatment right next to each other in the waiting room or family resource center they often strike up conversations. It’s not uncommon for each to become a source of support,” explains Peacock. “It’s sometimes easier to reveal your emotional and spiritual concerns to someone who is facing similar circumstances.”

A Team Approach

Spiritual help is not just available for patients, but for family members as well. It’s important for all involved in the cancer recovery to find support within their own structure. Visit our website if you’d like to talk with someone from our spiritual health team.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia, the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit emoryhealthcare.org/cancer or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.

 

About Caroline Peacock, LCSW, MDiv

Caroline Peacock, LCSW, MDiv, is the Manager of Spiritual Health and Community Care for the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She is a Certified Associate Educator with the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, an ordained Episcopal priest, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been with Emory Healthcare since 2013, where she received her training as a spiritual health educator. Prior to training in Spiritual Health, she worked as a clinical social worker in New York City. Caroline has a passion for offering compassionate, respectful, and effective patient/family-centered care in a multi-faith, multi-cultural environment. She has a Master of Divinity from General Theological Seminary, and a Master of Social Work from City University of New York Hunter College.

To listen to an interview with Caroline Peacock, LCSW, MDiv, Spiritual Health Manager at Winship Cancer Institue of Emory University, please follow this link: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/podcasts/index.html?segitem=36546

Spiritual Health and Your Cancer Journey

When a person is experiencing a serious illness, it’s not just their body that’s affected. The entire being — from the spiritual to emotional — can be impacted. This can be particularly true for individuals navigating a cancer diagnosis and treatment. It is not uncommon for people to experience a crisis of faith, to feel disconnected from their religious community or loved ones, or to feel that it is hard to talk about the way their outlook on life may be changing. Some people may feel isolated, angry or overwhelmed. Others may have a renewed sense of meaning or faith. No matter the experience, it can be helpful for people living with cancer to connect with their own spiritual life as a way of coping with their illness.

What is Spiritual Health?

Simply put, spiritual health is the quality of whole-person wellness – including spiritual and emotional wellness.

People have different ideas about what gives them meaning, their deepest values, and religious beliefs, which may affect decisions they make relating to treatment. These values can also impact decision-making about end-of-life care. Even common health issues can bring up spiritual concerns, and patients and family members may benefit from exploring the way their broader life is affected when they experience illness. Some patients and their family caregivers want doctors to talk about spiritual concerns, but feel unsure about how to bring up the subject.

Spiritual Health at Winship Cancer Institute is here to help patients connect with what they value most, to what gives them meaning in life — whether that’s a particular faith, religious or spiritual practice, meditation, cherished pastime, or loving connection to community, family and friends.

Our Spiritual Health clinicians are available to talk to anyone and everyone, regardless of their religious identity. We provide an open, supportive and compassionate presence. This can happen at any point of a person’s cancer journey – at the time of diagnosis, during treatment, or when returning for follow-up care. The Spiritual Health clinicians at Winship Cancer Institute will not impose any belief, but will be present to listen, understand and help you connect with what you value.

In recent years, there have been studies to investigate the benefits of spiritual health. The results support the importance of spiritual health in giving a renewed sense of hope, self-worth and meaning.

How Can I Attend to My Spiritual Health?

Ultimately, a person’s spirituality is a part of their own personal journey. What works best for one person may not work for another. Spiritual health clinicians can talk with you to help you find or strengthen a spiritual connection to whatever it is you believe or find of value.

For some, engaging spirituality may include prayer, attending a religious service, spending time outdoors or daily meditation. The first step is to identify what’s important to you and asking yourself questions such as “What gives me meaning?” and “What do I value most?”

These questions may be difficult to answer at first, but spending time thinking about what you value most can help you find and strengthen a path to spiritual wellness.

Ask for Help

Spiritual clinicians are also available to talk with any patient or caregiver at Winship Cancer Institute. Visit our website if you’d like to talk with someone from our spiritual health team.

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center for Georgia, the highest designation given by the NCI to cancer centers in the nation. Winship offers expertise in cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment with the most advanced therapies. Winship is where you get treatments years before others can. Our expert team coordinates every detail of your visit to meet your individualized treatment plan. Visit emoryhealthcare.org/cancer or call 1-888-WINSHIP for an appointment.

 

About Caroline Peacock, LCSW, MDiv

Caroline Peacock, LCSW, MDiv, is the Manager of Spiritual Health and Community Care for the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She is a Certified Associate Educator with the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, an ordained Episcopal priest, and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been with Emory Healthcare since 2013, where she received her training as a spiritual health educator. Prior to training in Spiritual Health, she worked as a clinical social worker in New York City. Caroline has a passion for offering compassionate, respectful, and effective patient/family-centered care in a multi-faith, multi-cultural environment. She has a Master of Divinity from General Theological Seminary, and a Master of Social Work from City University of New York Hunter College.

Listen to the Spiritual Health podcast: http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/podcasts/index.html?segitem=36546

Treatment for Multiple Myeloma at Emory – Real Patient Story

Meet these real-life Multiple myeloma patients and learn about treatment for Multiple Myeloma at EmoryWhen Cathy Mooney was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the myeloma program at Winship was just beginning to take off. Today, the center provides treatment for multiple myeloma to 400 to 500 new patients a year, with about 1,600 multiple myeloma patients overall. More than 200 Winship patients participate in the Phase I Clinical Trials Unit directed by Donald Harvey.

“That’s a huge group that we are able to see in one city,” says Ajay Nooka, assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology and part of the hematology care team at Winship. In addition to caring for patients, Nooka, who specializes in cancer epidemiology, structures and oversees many of Winship’s clinical trials and assesses their outcomes.

The large patient population and high rate of clinical trial enrollment is a gold mine of data for researchers.

“The ultimate goal is to see where we stand in terms of treatment for multiple myeloma progress and what changes we can make to further improvements in patient outcomes,” Nooka says.
Another advantage for Winship’s multiple myeloma team is Atlanta’s large population of African Americans, who are twice as likely as the white population to be diagnosed with the disease.

“The difference between us and other centers is that a lot of our patients are our neighbors,” Lonial says. “A lot of the game in clinical trials is not just, are you able to do them, but do you have the patients? The growth for us has stemmed from access to new drugs and access to patients. That’s a big reason why we had four drugs approved last year as a part of treatment for multiple myeloma.”

In November, the FDA approved elotuzumab as part of an innovative immune-based therapy treatment for patients with relapsed multiple myeloma. That was the third myeloma drug approved by the FDA within the previous month and the fourth approved within the last year.

That’s good news for patients like Quincy Washington, who was 42 when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2007.

At first his doctor suspected rheumatoid arthritis, but then sent Washington to an oncologist, where he learned about myeloma for the first time. The disease typically strikes African American men at a younger age than any other patient group.

“The doctor said, you have multiple myeloma. I said, okay. What do we do next?” Washington remembers. “She looked at my wife and said, is he in shock? And my wife said no, that’s pretty much his personality. I don’t really do the whole gloom-and-doom perspective.”

Washington happened to have a friend who specializes in oncology at Winship, and that’s how he discovered that he could get the most leading-edge care within miles of his home in Lithonia. He began treatment for multiple myeloma immediately, including enrollment in a clinical trial.

Now in long-term remission, Washington says, “My plan is to be cured. At some point, my numbers will be zero. When it comes to age, I’m a triple-digit kind of guy.”

Breast Cancer: Risk Factors, Screenings, Symptoms & Therapy Live Chat

bc-cil-638What questions do you have about breast cancer?

Emory Glenn Family Breast Center at Winship Cancer Institute is dedicated to breast cancer prevention, detection and comprehensive treatment of breast health issues and breast cancer including aggressive forms of triple negative breast cancer.

Our breast cancer doctors and researchers are thought leaders in the field of breast cancer, and are uniquely positioned to have access to the latest information on cancer care.  The breast cancer program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University offers multidisciplinary teams including oncology surgeons, radiologists, medical oncologists, pathologists, and advanced practice nurses with expertise in only breast cancer.  There are a variety of treatment options for breast cancer; for some patients, a combination of treatment methods may be used.

Join physicians with Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s breast cancer team, on Tuesday, October 11th at 12pm EST for a live chat where they will answer your questions about breast cancer risk factors, screenings, symptoms and therapy. All are welcome to attend an online open-forum discussion about breast cancer. Sign up for this live chat here.

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No Patient Left Behind: Tracking Cancer Disparities

Veronica Reynolds' multiple myeloma is now in remission. She says Dr. Leon Bernal-Mizrachi "walked with me every step of the way. He's a great spirit. It doesn't matter who you are, you will be treated the same way."

Veronica Reynolds’ multiple myeloma is now in remission. She says Dr. Leon Bernal-Mizrachi “walked with me every step of the way. He’s a great spirit. It doesn’t matter who you are, you will be treated the same way.”

Why are some individuals more likely to develop cancer or to develop a more aggressive form of cancer? Winship clinicians and researchers confront such disparities daily – and are working to understand and change them.

Genetic research is a key to understanding how either race or ethnicity affect the incidence of different cancers and how these factors may contribute to different responses to the same treatments. Multiple myeloma, a blood cancer of the immune system’s plasma cells, occurs two to three times more often in African Americans than in Caucasians. Finding out why could lead to better therapies for all. Winship researchers couldn’t do it without people like Veronica Reynolds.

In her mid-50s, the busy realtor developed severe pain. She asked herself if she had strained her back, driving back and forth showing houses or picking up grandchildren? She told herself it would go away. It got worse. One doctor told her she looked too well to hurt as much as she claimed. Another believed her but his pills barely helped. After two years, she feared her heart would stop from pain. At Grady Memorial Hospital, imaging revealed fractured bones, due to bone destruction. Other tests provided the multiple myeloma diagnosis – and led Reynolds to Dr. Leon Bernal-Mizrachi, a Winship hematologist/oncologist who sees patients at Grady.

Reynolds credits God for sending her to Bernal-Mizrachi and to Dr. Jonathan Kaufman, director of Winship’s ambulatory infusion center, who oversaw her stem cell transplant following high dose chemotherapy. She credits herself for following the complex treatment regimens. And she’s “ecstatic,” she adds, about being part of her doctors’ research. “I hope I have enough fight in me to live to see it help many people like me.”

Reynolds – and her genes – are part of a massive multi-institutional study to sequence the entire genome (more than three billion DNA base pairs) of 1,049 African Americans with multiple myeloma and another 7,084 without the disease. The Winship component, headed by Drs. Sagar Lonial, Bernal-Mizrachi, and Ajay Nooka, has gathered almost a third of the study’s participants, thanks to the researchers’ commitment and Georgia’s high African-American population. Although still in process, the study is already producing valuable insights. Winship physicians routinely take tissue cells from multiple myeloma patients, looking for genetic variants that indicate who is at higher risk of relapse. They hope this new study will help identify why this disease occurs more frequently among African Americans and determine if there are treatments that may be specific to these patients.

The incidence of multiple myeloma in the African-American community is just one of the cancer disparities that Winship researchers are aggressively investigating. This blog is excerpted from a more comprehensive magazine article about health disparity research at Winship which can be accessed at https://winshipcancer.emory.edu/magazine/issues/2015/summer/features/no_patient_left_behind/index.html.

Winship Cancer Institute Expands Hospital Access

winship expands sign picWinship Cancer Institute has expanded access to its high quality cancer care in alignment with its broad clinical research program at both Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital (ESJH) and Emory Johns Creek Hospital (EJCH). In addition, Winship has established the Winship Cancer Network as a means to improve access to such vital services throughout Georgia and the Southeast.

Longstanding and continued support from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation has enabled Winship to advance cancer care and access to services like these for tens of thousands of patients throughout Georgia and beyond.

In addition to expanding services at ESJH and EJCH, the Woodruff Foundation’s most recent grant will be used to expand and improve Winship’s Shared Resource portfolio with special emphasis on its Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program. Researchers in this program are continually evaluating the best methods to reduce and eliminate the development of cancer among high-risk individuals across Georgia and the Southeast.

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Recurrent Prostate Cancer: Where is it?

Tiffany Dunphy and Van Jackson, radiation therapists at Winship at Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital, work with prostate cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment.

Tiffany Dunphy and Van Jackson, radiation therapists at Winship at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, work with prostate cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment.

“It’s a lot easier to plan the attack, if we know where the enemy is,” says Winship urologist Peter Nieh, MD. “If a cancer is still localized, we may want to try salvage therapy, either radiation or surgery, before advancing to something systemic.”

Depending on how primary treatment took place, a prostate cancer often comes back in the prostate bed (where the prostate gland was), and may appear in nearby lymph nodes. In advanced cases, the cancer may spread to the bones.

Emory radiologist and Winship member David Schuster, MD and radiochemist and Winship member Mark Goodman, PhD have been developing a PET (positron emission tomography) imaging probe that shows considerable potential for detecting recurrent prostate cancer.

Usually in PET imaging, radioactive glucose is injected into the body, and since cancer cells have a sweet tooth, they take up a lot of the radioactive tracer. But the tracer also appears in the urine, complicating prostate cancer detection efforts since the prostate is so close to the bladder. In contrast, the probe 18F-FACBC, based on amino acids, is taken up by prostate cancer cells but doesn’t appear as much in urine.

FACBC has its limitations. It also may be taken up in benign prostate hyperplasia or inflammation. This means it probably won’t be as useful by itself for evaluating primary prostate cancers, but it has a lengthening track record in recurrent cancer.

In a 2011 publication, Schuster and his colleagues compared FACBC to ProstaScint, a commercially available probe. FACBC showed superior sensitivity and specificity in detecting tumors outside the prostate bed. Schuster is now collaborating with Winship radiation oncologist Ashesh Jani, MD to study FACBC’s benefits in designing radiation treatments for patients with recurrent prostate cancer after prostatectomy.

In Jani’s clinical trial study for recurrent prostate cancer, which lasts until 2017, one group of patients is examined using FACBC, while another gets conventional imaging. The question is whether using information gleaned from FACBC to direct the radiation results in a longer lasting remission than with the control group.

Marble countertop salesman Paul Reckamp, who was a participant in Jani’s study, keeps a file on his phone noting his PSA levels for the last several years. Reckamp had a radical prostatectomy in July 2010 at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, but the cancer appeared to come back a year and a half later. FACBC imaging confirmed that the cancer had appeared in nearby lymph nodes but not elsewhere, and doctors could then plan radiation treatment that drove his PSA levels back down again.

“I couldn’t have been more pleased with the study,” he says. “It told me and the doctors what we wanted to know.”

As a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer center, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University’s participation in clinical trials ensures our prostate patients have access to progressive resources and technology. For men with recurrent prostate cancer, there are newer methods of imaging such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). 

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Coping with Survivor’s Guilt After Cancer

cancer survivor guiltBeing diagnosed with cancer can bring on many different types of emotions from fear to sadness to relief; however, many patients don’t think about how they might feel after they complete their treatment. Many are surprised when they begin to feel guilty. This is known as survivor’s guilt. It is a feeling that is often experienced by those who have survived a major or traumatic event such as being diagnosed with cancer. The feelings may come from a sense of guilt that they survived the disease and another patient did not or they did well with treatment while another had a very difficult time recovering.

Here are some things to keep in mind if you think you might be suffering from survivor’s guilt:

  • You are not alone. Survivor’s guilt is very common. It is a natural response for many cancer patients. It often feels like sadness, depression or even grief.
  • Tell someone about how you’re feeling. Talk with a friend or family member you trust. You can always reach out to a social worker to help you process these feelings. Acknowledging those feelings can be help you process them and ultimately overcome them.
  • Consider keeping a journal. Sometimes it is helpful to write down how we are feeling in order to help us manage those emotions. Starting an art project is another creative way to cope with survivor’s guilt.
  • Remind yourself that every patient’s cancer journey is different and that’s okay. It is unrealistic to compare your treatment outcomes to someone else’s because everyone is different.
  • Be supportive. If you know someone who is going through treatment and having a difficult time, it is important to provide them with as much support as possible. As a cancer survivor, you offer a unique type of support because you have been there.
  • Attend a cancer survivor’s support group. Reaching out to other survivors can be helpful.

Don’t wait to get help if you think you are experiencing survivor guilt. It is important to acknowledge and address the issue sooner rather than later. Patients can talk directly to oncology social workers through the following community organizations: www.livestrong.org, www.cancer.org and www.cancercare.org.

About Joy McCall, LCSW

Joy McCallJoy McCall is a Winship social worker with bone marrow transplant, hematology and gynecologic teams and their patients. She started her professional career at Winship as an intern, working with breast, gynecologic, brain and melanoma cancer patients. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Kennesaw State University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia. As part of her education she completed an internship with the Marcus Institute working on the pediatric feeding unit, and an internship counseling individuals and couples at Families First, supporting families and children facing challenges to build strong family bonds and stability for their future. She had previously worked with individuals with developmental disabilities for over 4 years, providing support to families and caregivers.

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