Onward: The Survivorship Journey

Survivorship describes the process of living with, through, and beyond cancer. In 1985, cancer survivor Fitzhugh Mullan, M.D., published an article about his own cancer experience “Seasons of Survival: Reflections of a Physician with Cancer,” in The New England Journal of Medicine.

He identified what he called the “seasons” of cancer survivorship: acute survivorship, which involves diagnosis and initial treatment; extended survivorship, a time of watchful waiting with celebration, uncertainty and transition; and permanent survivorship, the season of gradual confidence that there would be a future free of cancer.

His book, Seasons of Survival, became the foundation for recognizing the stages of the cancer journey, and the next year, Mullan was instrumental in the creation of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), which advocates for cancer survivors. Currently, there are more than 16 million cancer survivors in the U.S.

About a year ago, the Baylor Sammons Cancer Center held a Survivorship Summit planning meeting to understand the meaning and importance of survivorship for cancer patients and to develop a roadmap for Baylor Sammons/Baylor Scott & White cancer patients. They wanted to define and create a vision for the survivorship program at Baylor by identifying current program components and gaps and finding strategies to fill them. The components at that time were separate, and the goal was simply to form a more cohesive program for cancer survivors. At the completion of the meeting, the key theme for survivorship had become, “Focus on a life saved is a life worth living to the fullest.”

After a year of meetings and strategic planning, Baylor Sammons Cancer Center completed the design for Onward: The Survivorship Journey, to support patients and their families. It will be inaugurated on November 4. It weaves multidisciplinary elements into a dedicated team of oncology professionals under one umbrella of services. From rehabilitation and fitness to behavioral health and meditation, it has been thoughtfully prepared to support the healing process.

The Navigation program provides a personalized approach and ongoing support throughout the cancer journey at no cost. The Healing Environment program supports innovative and integrative methods that promote overall patient well-being. The Arts in Medicine program offers music and art therapy provided at the bedside. The Behavioral Health Oncology service differs from traditional mental health service because it is embedded in a cancer center. This service is available by referral only.

Integrative medicine combines traditional care with evidence-based integrative techniques to promote optimal health and healing. Genetic counseling is provided for individuals at high risk of cancer. Other wellness programs include education, access to nurses, chaplains, social workers, clinical psychologists, art therapists and a resource library with Internet access. In the Cooking Kitchen, a chef and a registered dietitian teach patients and their families how to cook nutritionally and deliciously. Ernie’s Appearance Center is a special boutique available to help patients look and feel their best during cancer treatments.

Support groups for almost every cancer diagnosis are offered via the Cvetko Patient Resource Center. Some support groups are held weekly, while others may be monthly or quarterly. Spiritual support includes oncology chaplain services and sacred spaces for reflection, indoor and outdoor.

Research trials are conducted in Sammons Cancer Center through the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, Texas Oncology and US Oncology, and Baylor Dallas also participates in major multicenter trials conducted by groups such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and Stand Up to Cancer.

For more information, visit Tinyurl.com/Onward-TheSurvivorshipJourney.


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