by Chris Brewer
In late 1996, Lance Armstrong and I had one certified Big Thing in common, namely fighting a personal – and ultimately successful – battle against testicular cancer. Before our cancer related lives came together in early 1997, we’d both gone public with our fight: I’d co-founded the Testicular Cancer Resource Center with Doug Bank, and Lance and a few friends created the Lance Armstrong Foundation here in Austin. The LAF originally started out by funding direct cancer research for four urological cancers, namely bladder, prostate, kidney, and of course testicular. But all of that would soon change on a very large scale…
While the TCRC still serves that specific subset we started out to help, the LAF was soon presented with a major opportunity to not just help out by raising tens of thousands of dollars (for a billions and billions of dollars problem) for a few specific diseases, but rather the opportunity to literally help anyone diagnosed with cancer, as well as their family and friends. It was 1999 and there was an emerging field getting little attention, and it was called “Survivorship.”
You see, despite the dire medical condition Lance had been in, there still was a treatment protocol that had promise. And as we all now know, that treatment was vastly successful and ultimately lead to him becoming a true icon of what it means to beat cancer. But if you think about what happened during and after treatment, there were still a lot of issues to deal with. Lance lost his job during chemotherapy, he initially had no medical insurance, didn’t know if he would ever be able to have children, and had no idea where his career was headed once he was done with treatment. “If this was what I am dealing with,” he thought, “what about everyone else?” And so with a hearty Yes! the decision was made to make Survivorship the focal point of the LAF – eventually leading to the inspiring brand LIVESTRONG – that still drives the Foundation onward to this day.
Now back in the day, it was really just conceptual what Survivorship meant. Oftentimes just acknowledging practical issues like emotional support, finances, fertility, and access to care was a big step. But we now have lots of research that LIVESTRONG has supported, as well as a great online tool that anyone can use: The LIVESTRONG Care Plan powered by Penn Medicine’s OncoLink. Simply put, this free and easy to use program provides cancer survivors with information regarding the health risks they face as a result of cancer therapies. You log onto the website, answer some questions, and a plan is generated giving you vital information regarding your post care situation. You can even do this for someone you care about, too.
In preparation for this article, I completed a Care Plan for myself. It took less than 10 minutes, and I was quite surprised that after being an advocate in the cancer battle for over 15 years, I learned lots about my own situation I wasn’t aware about. Lance and the LIVESTRONG mission have come a long way since 1996, and now you can access this free tool as part of your personal toolbox for surviving this disease. Thanks – for all you do – and as always: LIVESTRONG!
Learn more at: www.livestrongcareplan.org