Beyond surviving

Published on Oct 22, 2014

At TEDMED, Debra Jarvis draws on her own experience with cancer to offer a witty yet daring look at the way that survivors of disease and trauma can achieve new levels of emotional and psychological healing. For writer, ordained minister, and hospital chaplain Debra Jarvis, humor is a powerful balm. She is not afraid to be funny even when doing very serious work with the sick and dying as a hospice chaplain, a pastoral consultant for volunteer groups caring for people with AIDS and MS, and staff chaplain at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Debra is the author of It’s Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life & Cancer and numerous other books. Currently on sabbatical in Geneva, Debra’s last job was as writer-in-residence for the University Congregational United Church of Christ in Seattle. In her free time, Debra accompanies her Cairn terrier Max in his therapy dog work.

More from TEDMED 2014

Life with an Ileostomy: Celebrating 6 Years!

By Leah Sannar

Ahh, don’t you just love exploring the lighter side of life with an ostomy? Anyway – guess what? This month marks my 6th “Ostoversary.” In case you’re new to this fabulous term, which I know you are because I just made it up, it’s a combo – Ostomy/Anniversary. This is a big deal you guys! I can’t believe time goes by so quickly and that I’m already celebrating 6 years! And I do use the term “celebrating” on purpose, because that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m celebrating. Sure, living with an Ileostomy has had its challenges. And they are definitely challenging; I don’t mean to downplay them. But when you put those trials next to the ones I faced with active Crohn’s Disease – they feel mild, even easy. Maybe not in the moment… but they are 100% more desirable to me, than going back to life without an Ostomy. (Hear more about how I ended up with an Ileostomy here.)

People are always so fascinated with me when they find out about my Ileostomy. I always get this blank stare that says, “Oh man, I have so many questions… I really want to ask, but I don’t want to offend [...] continue the story

But You Said I Wouldn’t Need Radiation

Abstract

Summary: Participatory care for breast cancer patients requires doctors to do more than simply tell patients about their diagnoses. It’s about communicating effectively so that patients can comprehend complex medical information, make informed treatment decisions, and feel hopeful about the future. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, the average patient consults with as many as six different physicians about a care plan.[¹] The most effective practitioners use patient-centered communication to encourage patients to participate in their care and to reduce hopelessness.[²] Breast cancer survivor and communication skills trainer Stephanie Roberson Barnard tackles this important subject with a personal essay comparing post-mastectomy appointments with two different physicians. Both physicians interpreted the same results, but the first doctor’s communication style left Stephanie anxious and bereft, while the second doctor’s communication style helped her feel informed and hopeful.

Keywords: Breast cancer, patient-centered communication, doctor-patient communication, patient participation.

Citation: Barnard SR. But you said i wouldn’t need radiation. J Participat Med. 2014 Feb 28; 6:e4.

Published: February 28, 2014.

Competing Interests: The author has declared that no competing interests exist.

Disclaimer: The names of providers have been changed for this article. The Waiting Game When my husband, David, and I arrive at the General Surgeon Dr. Alberts’s office for our appointment, [...] continue the story

Attitude

I’ve come to believe that seriously sick people are often subject to some very interesting comments from well-intentioned non-sick people. They are frequently inspired by #platitudes from self-help-books, Google chat rooms (heaven forbid), or beliefs that have been around for so long that they are a natural part of common discourse.

To be fair, when we are confronted with the uncomfortable task of talking to a sick person, our conversation can easily become a pre-programmed response that make us feel better for having said something uplifting, positive, sympathetic, or socially acceptable. It’s antiphonal, like the “god bless you” after someone sneezes.

And, for the record, I have probably said every single one of them myself at one time or another.

But as the recipient of them after my diagnosis and subsequent chemotherapy for metastatic primary peritoneal cancer, I felt like I was listening to some foreign language. I have even questioned if I really said some of those things that now make me feel like Charlie Brown listening to his mother’s distorted ..wah,..wah…wah…

I’ve heard excited reports from people who said they knew a person who had exactly (strong emphasis on “exactly”) what I have and “she’s been just fine for 20 years.”

There was [...] continue the story

Schwartz Center Compassionate Caregiver of the Year Dr. Amy Ship

In accepting the award, Ship spoke of the importance of small gestures in the doctor-patient relationship – specifically, the art of listening with both eyes and ears. “Returning the (patient’s) gaze is one of those powerful small gestures,” she said. “It encapsulates empathy and compassion – being present, fully present, to another human being: pausing to look back. To say with our eyes that we are listening, that we hear.”

It’s a lesson she teaches medical students who rotate through Healthcare Associates. “I’m proud to be a primary care doctor,” she said. “Primary care is focused on continuity, of knowing one’s patients through all their illnesses and the complexity of their lives. And primary care is focused on prevention – on protecting you from the consequences of untreated but silent diseases and from unnecessary tests or hospitalization. That’s care we all need and deserve.

“I look out tonight at a room filled with people who have the minds, energy and position to change medicine, and I want to make it clear that primary care needs saving. Those who practice it need to be given the time to do it right. Primary care can literally save lives, but it can not be done [...] continue the story

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