Mindful Monday – Do You Have a Cancer Survivorship Plan?

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I had my first (and last) acting gig on Saturday morning. At the Survivorship Symposium hosted by Overlook Hospital, Dr. Bonnie Guerin was scheduled to talk about the importance of creating a survivorship plan with your medical oncologist. She thought her talk would be more interesting if she role played two scenarios with a new patient.

I was asked to play the part of the new patient. My “character” had completed treatment in another state and now needed to follow up with a new oncologist. In the first scenario, the doctor was distracted, hadn’t read the medical file before our meeting, and was dismissive of my questions. We got a big laugh when her cell phone rang and she took the call in the middle of our appointment. After only five minutes or so, my character was summarily dismissed, with a very bad taste in her mouth and without a cancer survivorship plan.

In the second scenario, I brought a friend with me to the appointment, who took notes and offered support. The doctor had read my file and called my former doctor to fill in more information before our appointment. We discussed my diagnostic tests and results, tumor characteristics and specific treatments. I asked questions and got thoughtful answers. It was clear that this doctor was up to speed with my situation and ready to talk about the future.

As we talked, the doctor wrote out a cancer survivorship plan which included recommended ongoing tests, treatment, and prescription information. We discussed possible side-effects of my prescription and other issues which could arise. We also discussed psycho-social issues and I was introduced to the breast nurse navigator. She gave me a wealth of information about resources available to me at the hospital – including exercise classes, mind-body programs, and nutrition information. To get started on a plan of your own (which you can then discuss with your doctor), check out the Livestrong Care Plan powered by Penn Medicine’s OncoLink.

When our appointment was over, my character had a written cancer survivorship plan in her hand. It struck me that mindfully paying attention to the present moment is hard to do when you’re riddled with questions about your future. With a cancer survivorship plan the future is set out on a path before you and it’s a little less scary.

I had fun play-acting on Saturday, but I also came away from the experience determined to share something important with you. Dr. Guerin emphasized that, “Everyone is entitled to a cancer survivorship plan. If you’re not offered one, ask for it.” It’s great advice and I’m happy to pass it on to you.

Survival > Existence



Marie Ennis-O'Connor's picture

Like you Debbie, I am very

Like you Debbie, I am very interested in the survivorship aspect of cancer and believe that having a care plan in place for the end of treatment should be an essential part of our treatment. I have downloaded the Livestrong plan and it is very useful. ASCO also have a template at www.cancer.net/treatmentsummaries

Debbie's picture

A Plan Negates A Lot of Unnecessary Anxiety


It’s so simple really. A plan lets you know what’s coming next in terms of treatment, testing, appointments, etc.  It also gives you a head’s up as to side effects and the like. That kind of early information can negate a lot of unnecessary anxiety. Thanks for the link to the ASCO template.

Survival > Existence,


Beth L. Gainer's picture

Survivorship Plan

What a great idea! I think too many medical professionals don’t think of having a survivorship plan in place with the patient. I really don’t have one; I guess I do: to be mindful of the present and endure followups with courage. I don’t always follow these, unfortunately.

Thank you for your insightful posting. I didn’t know you acted!

Debbie's picture

A Plan Helps Keep You on The Path of Vigilant Health Care


I like the Livestrong and ASCO templates because you can be proactive and bring your plan to your doctor to discuss. Even when it’s hard to keep on the path of vigilant health care, a plan helps by giving you a structure.

Oh, I don’t act, believe me. It was a one time thing!

Survival > Existence,


Susan's picture


I agree there is a real need for survivorship plans…especially after treatment. My co-blogger and I are trying to help those realize what they should include in their plans after treatment and wrote a boo about it that will be launched at the Women’s Cancer Survivors Conference in Nashville in August. Please take a look if you wish

Thanks for bringing this to light. Hopefully this will become standard in the future.

Debbie's picture

Good Luck with the Book!


Good luck with the book! Cancer survivorship plans are the wave of the future and it’s great that you’re out there getting the word out.

Survival > Existence,


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