Ruth and Julia Rowland, PhD, Director of the NCI office of Cancer Survivorship

I recently attended the 6th Biennial Cancer Survivorship Research Conference: Translating Science to Care. It was a privilege and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to have attended as a Survivorship-Advocate with a scholarship awarded by the LIVESTRONG Foundation. There were 19 other advocates who brought a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table. It was a profound experience.

This innovative conference, sponsored by LIVESTRONG, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided the opportunity to hear from, meet and network with some of the nations leading cancer survivorship researchers, clinicians, cancer survivors, advocates, program planners, policymakers, and public health experts. I was able to learn about current and emerging cancer survivorship research, with a focus on dissemination and implementation of that research to impact the lives of cancer survivors.

It was surprising and somehow disappointing to discover that there is a very real deficit in meeting the very real needs of people whose lives have been affected by cancer. However, it is my belief that when a problem can be named, there is the possibility of a solution. We learned about the role of obesity and stress in cancer survivorship; the daunting problem of disparity in access to care; and the need to optimize communication and coordination of Post-Treatment care. There are exciting initiatives on a national level to bring about the change that is necessary. It is an arduous process, requiring the cooperative efforts of all parties to bring about meaningful change. Empowering survivors to ask for what they need is a key element. We heard that the resources to meet many of those needs are available, but access to and payment for those services are looming questions, with no apparent, easy answers.

While the depth and breadth of the material presented during the various sessions was potentially overwhelming, it was gratifying to discover that resilience is an essential component in cancer survivorship. This is at the very core of the message that I share. Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery, the current research project funded by the Hourglass Fund, focuses on building one’s innate capacity to navigate survivorship with resilience. This affirmation of my mission and message, along with ongoing affiliations with Rein in Sarcoma; the Center for Spirituality & Healing and the Masonic Cancer Center, both at the University of Minnesota, provide the opportunity to move forward with confidence to enhance the lives of people affected by a cancer diagnosis and the life changes that accompany it.

During the conference, the 2012 LIVESTRONG Survey for People Affected by Cancer was launched. If your life has been touched by cancer, please take this survey. Your participation will help LIVESTRONG to determine the programs and resources that they offer to improve experiences of people diagnosed with cancer in the future and help others to understand what cancer survivors experience everyday.

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