Judy Pearson (who writes under Judith L. Pearson) is a published biographer who was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in 2011. Her quest for survivorship information eventually led her to recently publish From Shadows to Life: A Biography of the Cancer Survivorship Movement.
How did you first become interested in the cancer survivorship movement?
I founded A 2nd Act, a survivorship nonprofit, in 2016. Through it, I was introduced to Susie Leigh, one of the founders of the survivorship movement. That random introduction opened the door to the material that became this book.
Fifty years ago, President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act. What impact did it have on the disease?
Prior to the 1970s, only 50% of those diagnosed with cancer survived their disease. And because of the fear that cancer was contagious, survivors lived as pariahs. President Nixon’s motivation for signing it and declaring war on cancer was reelection.
Unprecedented amounts of money were made available for research (and a cure helped) and won him a second term. But no one ever considered what life would be like for the increasing number of individuals who would survive the disease.
Much of your book is about the creation of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS). What strides did it make in changing our country’s view of people who had been diagnosed with cancer?
First and foremost, the NCCS founders created a definition for survivorship. It begins at diagnosis, because that’s when someone begins surviving the disease, and it continues through the balance of life.
Remarkably, until nearly the turn of the 21st century, survivors were discriminated against on all fronts. They could lose their jobs and their insurance for disclosing a cancer diagnosis. NCCS’s early focus was on combatting this discrimination, from the halls of Congress to the bridge clubs and golf courses of small-town America.
They fought to improve healthcare, during and after cancer treatment, helping with the troubling longterm effects. And, like the canaries in the coal mine, all of the survivors’ experiences have helped inform current treatment modalities. Doctors have learned that less is often more, and that quality of life far outweighs quantity of life.
What work still needs to be done in the area of cancer survivorship?
When we’re diagnosed, we spend a period of time in a frenetic stage of diagnostics and treatment. But hopefully, that’s just a small blip on the timeline of one’s life. True, cancer doesn’t end when treatment does.
But there’s healing in helping. The survivorship movement was based on the veterans guiding the rookies. Advocating for ourselves and others will power the movement forward and benefit us. We are now the movement: survivors, caregivers, and medical professionals. So let’s get moving!
Do you want to hear more about Judy’s cancer experience and the history of survivorship? Join us on Sunday, June 6 as she helps Bag It celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day® with a virtual conversation. You can join the virtual presentation on Facebook or register to join the Zoom conversation.
Learn more about the event
Have you received a Bag It bag? Are you a cancer survivor? Bag It wants to celebrate YOU.
Join us for a virtual program celebrating survivorship. Judith L. Pearson will share about her cancer experience and her new book From Shadows to Life: A Biography of the Cancer Survivorship Movement.
Sunday, June 6th
8:00-9:00 a.m. Tucson & Phoenix Breakfast pick up
10:00 a.m. Virtual Program
Then enjoy your breakfast in the comfort of your home as you log in and join us for the virtual program/celebration.
This event is not a fundraiser and is being offered at no cost to you. We want to celebrate YOU and hope you will join us for both breakfast and the presentation or just register to join us for the presentation. Whatever works best for you.
Please register early as space and free breakfasts are limited. You will be able to watch it live on Facebook without a registration.
Bag It. Guiding one through cancer.
So, it’s National Read a Roadmap week, and I love a bizarre holiday that connects to many things I love and makes me smile. First, I recall being on a road trip a few years ago, and yes we had GPS on our phones and were using that, when we were trying to find maps of the area we were in just because (okay maybe I wanted to use them later to scrapbook the adventure). At the 3rd gas station we found one, it was dated and covered in dust and the employees thought my friend was crazy for wanting one but we were thrilled!
Then a friend was visiting me and in the side panel of my car I have a few maps, because you never know when you might need one. She found this hilarious and took a picture of it to post on social media asking people if they even knew what they were – she couldn’t believe that I had them in my car. (FYI: I have used them from time to time.)
Now I love technology and frequently use digital maps, but it’s always good to have a back-up plan as we know that technology doesn’t work everywhere or your might not have your phone charged or maybe you just appreciate having things in a printed format. Print makes things easier to share and more readily available (but I encourage you to order those maps in advance of your next trip).
How does reading a map and my random stories (that made me smile with the memories) connect to cancer and Bag It?
Reading a roadmap takes some practice, just like understanding cancer. The Bag It bag works as a guide to help those impacted by cancer understand more about their diagnosis and cope with the bumps along the way. When you receive a cancer diagnosis you don’t get the map (digital or print) to go with it. You don’t know the vocabulary, the questions to ask, which treatment to take, or which exit has a support network. You need something to help familiarize you with this experience. Your healthcare team is one guide and a Bag It bag is another valuable guide.
The take-everywhere binder (yep, even on that road trip) helps organize appointments and records (similar to your brochures and itineraries). The booklets provide coping tips, support information, reliable cancer information and questions to ask. It’s all in the bag! You won’t feel lost during or after treatment with Bag It as your guide.
Bag It wants to ensure anyone who wants or needs a bag has them available to them. You can order one as a gift for someone when they are diagnosed with cancer to help them cope or you can order/request one for yourself. They are a doctor-recommended resource for anyone with any type of cancer.
If you don’t currently know anyone who could benefit consider participating in our Spring 2021 Fundraiser – Gift a Bag It Bag. With a $41 contribution you can help provide a source of comfort and the printed navigation tools to help a patient throughout their cancer treatment and beyond.
February is a busy month! We honor love, Martin Luther King Jr., Black history, and even our American presidents, but did you know that World Cancer Day also falls in February? The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) leads the charge in urging everyone to take steps to ensure that preventable cancer deaths are reduced and that there is increased access to life-saving treatments for all patients, “no matter who you are or where you live”. Each year, the UICC establishes a theme for their initiative to shape the many activities and events that kick off around the world each February. This year, the theme is “I Am and I Will” – a call to action to commit and act on steps to get screened and share knowledge in hopes of reducing the number of cancer-related deaths and noncommunicable diseases by one third by 2030 (that’s only 9 years away, so let’s get to it!)
Bag It is aligned with the UICC by providing resources to educate and support patients through their healthcare plan, increasing access to life-saving information regardless of one’s ethnicity or socio-economic background. Bag It provides the tools you need to help you feel more comfortable and confident in speaking up for yourself to ensure the best quality of life with cancer. The contents in the bag are designed to help you and your caregiver(s) cope with the diagnosis, get yourself organized and better understand the language of cancer.
February is cancer prevention month, and we encourage you to think about ways that you can help yourself and others prevent cancer. It’s the perfect time to schedule appointments for you and your loved ones because adhering to the recommended screenings for breast, cervical, colorectal (colon) and lung cancers can lead to early stage diagnosis, which increases the likelihood of treatment working.
What action will you take as we kick off World Cancer Day? Take the 21-Day challenge to learn more about cancer and how to reduce your cancer risks. Some suggestions:
As part of my campaign I participated in the World Cancer Day 21-Day Challenge which was informative and easy and I wrote this blog: I will schedule my mammogram (and a colonoscopy this year) and encourage people to schedule their appointments, and I will work to ensure that everyone diagnosed with cancer receives a Bag It bag to help them cope with their diagnosis and feel comfortable and confident speaking up to ensure they are living their best life with cancer.
Sending positive vibes your way,
Preventcancer.org recommends these seven steps to help prevent cancer.
Bag It had the opportunity to be part of the University of Arizona Cancer Center Community Outreach & Engagement “Let’s Taco ‘Bout Cancer!” Webinar Series. We were able to share information and details about the Bag It bag and what is offered.