Friday, July 16, 2010


My first job was at a community hospital in Marshalltown, Iowa as a patient advocate. I was hired to talk to patients. That's it. I was to follow each person after admission and follow him/her during their stay, which meant staying away most of the time but occasionally addressing problems with food, glitches in scheduling, or a misunderstanding with staff.  Of course if a patient had a big problem I was to inform the administrator immediately.  Even then I had a feeling for what "troubling" might be. 

This was in 1973 and I was 19.

So that summer I talked with patients all day long, day in and day out.  After I grew up I worked a corporate hospital company in Texas and also an academically based,  inner city hospital in Dayton.  That's where I really learned what makes these incredible institutions tick.  For one report I tagged the Director of Nurses (the DON) on the night shift.  We walked down dimmed hallways with a flashlight, checking monitors, answering pages, whispering.  I tagged a slightly manic, Napoleon sized ER doc who worked miracles one night extricating an object lodged in a child's trachea.  I can still see the X-ray and feel that stop-time moment  between life and death.  Since then I've written about some of these events, lost both of my parents to cancer, was diagnosed with cancer myself, then walked the same hallways with my husband when he was treated for cancer in 2002 and 2004.  

And all these years later I am still talking  about health education and advocacy.   Same things, different time, different vocabulary, different technology.  How different it all is and how familiar it feels.

Next week  I'll speak on a panel on  "patient empowerment" at a rally sponsored by Cancer Centers of America in Chicago. You need to know more now to successfully navigate the health care system.  How do you shake off the fear following a cancer diagnosis and take control of the issues and decisions?   We'll talk about that.  

What have you learned from your experience as a cancer survivor that you'd like to pass on?  Please let me know, there are women out there who need to hear from you.

What are the five things you wish you'd known about cancer treatment when you were diagnosed?  Talk to me:)

Have yourselves an awesome weekend,

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About the event:
Treatment Environment, Health Literacy May Improve Cancer Outcomes


Debbie said...

It is so amazing to learn more about you through this blog. And I LOVE the new look of the blog, it is fantastic.

So now, Things I wish I knew, the first and foremost for me would probably be the intensity of emotions and depression and mental turmoil after treatment. I know you can't say it is definitely going to happen for everyone but maybe just a note that people might want to be on the look-out for that and what to do if it happens - seek professional help.

Other things for me, maybe more access or information about support groups so that you can meet other survivors. Support for better eating and living, including exercise. A local hospital has a great exercise program that is free for cancer survivors where you get one-on-one consultations with a physical therapist who specializes in oncology and also with a personal trainer who along with the physical therapist makes a program that is just right for you.

Can't wait to hear and read all about your "Empowerment" weekend!
Love, Deb

Jody said...

You have hit a lot of essential ingredients in a short time. We've talked about the "adjustment" factor in dealing with the aftermath of treatment. We need to keep that language, and the understanding of PTSD out there. Not all survivors suffer depression and PTSD, but it sure is wicked bad if you do.

The local information too, continues to perplex me. Even here, as wired in as I am, I'm much more apt to find women online as off. While I WAS in treatment, tho, I stumbled on a wonderful group that meant the world to me. How did that happen? Word of mouth. In some cities once the word starts echoing that you have cancer survivors start falling out of the trees!

Great comments. You know I'll take all of them with me --

Power on, girlfriend,

Annemieke said...

Dear Jody,

Wow, love the new look of your blog to start with. Regarding the content, as you know I never had to go through that ordeal myself but it seems to me you've ticked most boxes. Learned another thing about your life too, isn't it amazing that your first job was so totally in line with what you are doing now? You've seen both sides and combined with your caring personality, this makes you the perfect candidate to sit on that panel. Big hug, Annemieke