Cancer Survivorship Conference Offers Encouragement, Resources for Survivors
For patients seeking community and information following their cancer diagnosis, JamesCare for Life brings scores of invaluable resources to The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Throughout the month of June, JamesCare for Life hosts events geared toward survivors in recognition of Cancer Survivors Month. One such event was its Survivorship Conference, an afternoon of information and inspiration from cancer experts.
The overarching theme of the conference was “Hope Grows Here at Ohio State,” said Felisha Lyons, MSW, LISW-S, director of JamesCare for Life, a program that provides services to cancer survivors, including caregivers and family members. Services can be accessed from the time of diagnosis and focus on many dimensions of well-being including health care, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social/practical concerns. Each program is offered free of charge.
Marilyn Carter, who was diagnosed with melanoma about 30 years ago, said she learns something new every time she attends a JamesCare for Life program.
“I came here for general information, but you never know what you’ll learn,” Carter said.
During the conference, Pelotonia CEO Doug Ulman spoke about how cancer changed his life. Ulman was first diagnosed with cancer — chondrosarcoma — before his sophomore year of college. In the two years following that diagnosis, Ulman was diagnosed with melanoma two separate times.
Ulman touched on the challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis.
“Cancer brings with it so many challenges and impacts so many aspects of our lives,” Ulman said. “I’m a big believer that you learn the most through challenges when you’re forced to overcome obstacles.”
Cancer led him to a career as an advocate for cancer research through the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, LiveSTRONG (where he was CEO), and now Pelotonia, the grassroots bicycle tour that has raised more than $110 million for cancer research at the OSUCCC – James.
Ulman summed up the joy of speaking to a room of cancer survivors with a sentiment of gratitude and comfort.
“I can’t think of a better place to be than in a room filled with people who share a common bond,” he said. “We’ve all been touched by cancer, each of us has had a different journey, and I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned and why I think cancer survivors can achieve pretty phenomenal things given the lessons we’ve learned.”
Ulman’s story hit home for many in the audience.
“Listening to someone else’s story is always encouraging,” said Elena Foulis, a Spanish Senior Lecturer in Ohio State’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese. She was diagnosed with breast cancer about four months ago.
The Survivorship Conference also included a cooking demonstration with Chef Jim Warner, Program Director of Nutrition Services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and Dena Champion, who is a licensed registered clinical dietician at the OSUCCC – James.
The key to healthy cooking is simple, Champion said.
“You don’t you have to be a vegetarian. But your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables and whole grains, with just an accent of meat.”
Fruits and vegetables are filled with phytochemicals, Champion said, which are chock-full of cancer-fighting properties such as carotenoids, flavonoids and isoflavones.
Warner then used lots of phytochemical-filled vegetables to prepare smoky shrimp and chicken gumbo as well as faro with asparagus, hazelnuts and kale topped with roasted mushrooms.
The only problem was, there was no faro (a food made up of wheat grains) at the grocery store, so he substituted with freekeh, which most of the attendees had never heard of. This nutty tasting grain is packed with fiber and protein.
“When you eat healthy food you feel good after you eat,” Warner said. “And when you eat fast food, 20 minutes later you say to yourself, ‘why did I eat that?’ We need to eat what our body needs.” For more information on healthy eating, check out our Garden to Table Recipe book.
In another segment of the conference, Monica Fawzy Bryant led a discussion on cancer patients’ rights and benefits in the workplace. Bryant is a cancer rights attorney and Chief Operating Officer for Triage Cancer, a national, non-profit organization that provides education and resources on cancer survivorship issues.
Federal and state laws provide many protections for employees, including the expectation of reasonable accommodations.
A reasonable accommodation, she explained, is “any change in the work environment or way in which things are done that enables a person with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.”
An example she used was a man who was a valet at a large hotel, where employees were forbidden to use the bathroom in the lobby and instead had to go all the way around back and use the employee bathroom.
“Due to his ailment, he had to use the bathroom frequently,” Bryant explained. “One day he couldn’t make it to the employee bathroom and had to use the one in the lobby. He got fired. The case went to court and he won, as the ruling showed that the hotel could have easily made a policy shift for him (a reasonable accommodation) and allow him to use the lobby bathroom.”
Flexible hours, or full- or part-time telecommuting are other examples of reasonable accommodation.
The employer costs to provide reasonable accommodations are often with minimal or no cost (approx. 58%) “and are a way to keep valued employees, increase productivity and morale,” Bryant said. “It helps both sides.”
A similar survivorship conference for healthcare professionals was being held just down the hall. The goal is to ensure that patients and families as well as healthcare teams are empowered to make informed decisions that can improve the cancer survivorship experience.
For more information on JamesCare for Life programs: call 614-293-6428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See the current listing of JamesCare for Life classes.
Read about a choir group for survivors and their caregivers: the Victory Choir.
Tips from a cancer expert who is also a cancer survivor.