Why do you think so little attention is given to the healing process after treatment?
Comprehensive rehabilitation is often left out of the healthcare continuum. There are many people who would benefit from seeing a physiatrist (a doctor like me who specializes in rehabilitation medicine) and other members of the rehabilitation team (e.g., physical therapist, occupational therapist, etc.) but are not offered these services.
What was the hardest part of the healing process for you?
For me, it was truly stunning that I was much sicker at the end of my cancer treatment than at the beginning, and I wasn’t offered any rehabilitation care at all.
Your family has played a big role in your work to help others, including publishing two books with the American Cancer Society; why do you think it’s important for families to get involved?
Serious illness or injury becomes a family problem—there’s no way to escape that. Though I was the one in need of physical recovery, my whole family had to emotionally recover from this experience. Working together helped all of us to heal.
What do you think are the toughest challenges for survivors?
Surviving any serious illness or injury changes you in many ways. Probably the biggest challenge is to tap into your own resilience and recognize that life can still be very worthwhile despite tremendous adversity.
If you could say one thing to someone who just received a challenging diagnosis, what would it be?
At the beginning of any diagnosis, you are in the middle of a crisis. It’s hard to really think and act during that time. So, marshal your resources as best you can and begin to take the steps you need to in order to get the best possible treatment. In time, you will have a clearer direction and hopefully heal optimally.
You spend much of your time blogging, publishing and serving as the lead editor for Harvard Health Publications, what do you hope to accomplish through these outlets?
My mission is to help people heal as well as possible, no matter what illness or injury they are facing.