(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – There are more than 18 million cancer survivors in the U.S. and that number is expected to rise to 26 million by 2040 as early detection and advancing treatments help patients live longer. But for many, the journey does not end with remission, as patients face long-term physical, mental and emotional challenges of survivorship.
“50% of survivors experience at least one side effect. And the top three of those are pain, fatigue and depression,” said Denise Schimming, lead nurse practitioner for cancer survivorship at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC—James). “A lot of patients have the misconception that when treatment is over, they should be back to normal right away. And we let them know that’s often not the case and they need to start slowly and reach out for the support they need.”
Providing that support free of charge in whatever form works best for each patient is the mission of the survivorship clinic at OSUCCC—James, whether that’s one-on-one counseling, exercise and nutrition guidance or group classes where patients can connect with other survivors through shared experiences.
For LaQuinta Haynes, therapy provided through the survivorship clinic helped her cope with her new normal and see new possibilities for her life after treatment for osteosarcoma required the amputation of her left leg.
“At first, I held on to anger about being an amputee by the age of 30, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it,” LaQuinta said. “But my therapist helped me stay positive and made me think about all of the things I can do rather than what I can’t do.”
Today, LaQuinta prides herself in exceeding expectations and breaking barriers every day, finding new passion as a wheelchair athlete in basketball, softball, soccer, football and rugby. But she says her greatest joy is showing others that there are incredible possibilities for life after cancer.
“I see my cancer diagnosis as a blessing because it changed how I look at life,” LaQuinta said. “That’s a really tough thing to see at first, but I want to share this light with as many people as I can to let them know that life isn’t over after cancer treatment. It’s just beginning.”
At OSUCCC—James, a patient is considered a survivor on the day of diagnosis—not when treatment ends— something experts say is important for early support that helps patients throughout treatment and continues for the rest of their lives. As the number of cancer survivors grows, the survivorship clinic is expanding to meet the need, and they hope to share their success with cancer hospitals across the country to ensure all patients get the help they need to thrive after cancer.
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