There’s so much to tell, I don’t know where to start. Just three days ago I flew home from the 2013 Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Blogger Summit in Arizona where so much information was pumped into my head it’s still spinning.
First things first: I and the 18 other bloggers who attended were the invited guests (all expenses paid) of CTCA. The public relations department organized and ran the summit and did an excellent job making us extremely comfortable. (I’ll tell you about the healthy, beautiful fruits and veggies later.) We were all made to feel very special. But, in truth, I was there because of you.
As a reader of WWGN, you are the target audience CTCA hopes to reach. To reach you, they went out on a limb and invited me in, confident I would be impressed and share that with you. At no time did anyone tell me or even hint that I had an obligation to write anything at all – because I don’t. But, knowing how bloggers like to share, it certainly was a good bet.
So here I am sharing my experience in Arizona with you. I was impressed with what I saw and I’ll specifically tell you why in this post and future posts down the road. But, and this is a very big BUT, I will never advise anyone that they should go anywhere in particular to get their medical care. That decision is a very personal one which should be made in conjunction with people much smarter than I am. What I write about are only my impressions from a three day, very well orchestrated summit. You must always make your own decisions about your own health care. (Plus, if you’re considering CTCA based on its survival statistics, make sure to read this special report on CTCA by Reuters and make an educated decision.)
Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, let’s get to it. The words that best describe the vibe I got from CTCA are “whole-person care,” “teamwork” and “collaboration.” Initial intake of a patient is conducted in one room, where he or she is seen by the entire team. Specialists in medical oncology, radiation oncology, mind-body medicine, naturopathic medicine, oncology rehabilitation, nutrition, pastoral care and survivorship meet with the patient, and then with each other, to map out a treatment strategy that provides for every element of the patient’s care.
Personally, I can really appreciate how this Day One, whole-person, teamwork approach takes a lot of stress off the patient. When I had my TRAM flap reconstruction I was told nothing about how to rehab after my surgery. The pain was constant and, after suffering in silence for a full year, I called my doctor and was finally told about therapeutic massage, which worked wonders.
I also learned details about lymphedema I never heard before. We joined farmer Bob McClendon (that’s him in the picture) to tour the 25-acre CTCA Hope Springs organic farm and ate beautiful salads, strawberries, edible flowers, etc., etc., fresh picked from the farm. We learned about clinical trials, natural ways to manage side effects, and survivorship and quality of life plans.
Perhaps the most stunning thing I heard was radiation oncologist Dr. Lanceford M. Chong’s statement that he treats his patient with “love.” Have you ever heard a doctor mention love? I certainly haven’t.
I will share more of my CTCA adventure in future posts. (I especially want to introduce you to my fellow bloggers!) For now, I want to emphasize that I whole-heartedly believe in whole-person care. (Teaching new medical professionals to take the whole-person care approach is exactly the focus of the work I do with the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project.) We as patients/survivors need to demand this form of care from our medical providers. If we demand it loudly enough, we will get it.
Survival > Existence,