Resilience is the ability to anticipate risk, limit hazardous impact, and bounce back through survival and adaptability. Resilient communities of cancer patients can minimize cancer’s disruption to everyday life by protecting themselves, their families and fellow and future patients. Resilient cancer communities should not only be prepared to help prevent or minimize the loss or damage to life, but should work to promote the ability to work through recovery, rehabilitation, and reinstate the essential psycho-social needs of enabling quality day-to-day life activities. In the context of cancer, many lessons have been learned. They allow us to rethink and improve levels of cancer patient community resilience, a hot topic every cancer patient needs to consider.
The Resilience Gap
About 40%of all Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point. While the progress in treating cancer and survivability has greatly improved, particularly in the last 10-years, few patients are not shocked at their diagnosis, families are still traumatized and the physical, economic and emotional toll of cancer remains severe. In other words, although the scientific. technology and biologic progress in treating cancer is leaping forward, the rate of progress at which the ‘future cancer patient community” is anticipating cancer risk, limiting its hazardous impact, and easily bouncing back through survival and adaptability remains a serious challenge. The resilience gap among cancer patients remains and is growing as more and more Americans are diagnosed with cancer.
Pockets of Substantial Risk
Resilience by cancer patients is not only needed in the early diagnosis and staging phases of cancer where symptoms of emotional shock are often first observed, but within all the treatment options and resulting situations ranging from cures and survivorship to managing chronic and intermittent diseases, to relapses, treatment failures, palliative care and even death. Each potential aspect of cancer treatment represents a pocket of risk where resilience will be required. Specific risks can be physical such as disability, impairment, pain or fatigue. Risks can also be emotional and developmental or social and economic. For example, few cancer patients have not observed financial, employment or insurance hazards when dealing with cancer. Add to the need for education and knowledge over understanding and dealing with cancer, a significant challenge is observed. Indeed, it is a minefield of danger.
Consequences of the Resilience Gap
The consequences of facing the risks of cancer treatment without adequate resilience and related support are profound. Epidemiological studies have shown patients with a lack of perceived social support have worse outcomes and higher mortality rates. (Institute of Medicine, 2001). The related psychological distress risks are incredibly serious and potentially long-term including but not limited to PTSD and PTSS. This can directly impact the ability to manage the illness.
The financial, economic and employment consequences of cancer can be stunning and crushing not only to the patient but entire families and personal networks. This in turn, can drive emotional and mental distress through the roof. Unfortunately, the social, psychological and economic stresses can easily impair adherence to medical regimes generating additional short and long-term risks.
Of course, there are more well-known and discussed risks such as diminished cognitive functioning, challenges in coping, changes in body functions, depression, family stresses and more.
Bouncing Back: Turning Adversity and Challenge into Opportunity and Inspiration
The Patient Ahead resilience effort is a process for cancer patients to integrate and work together rigorously under the slogan ‘cancer patients supporting cancer patients’. The idea is to fuel resilience and in doing so, zero-in on hope. We want to share knowledge, experience and insight for the benefit of future patients. We want to use technology including such emerging tools as artificial intelligence to accelerate the progress in cancer patient outcomes and related psycho-social support. Today, the Patient Ahead cancer community is moving ahead, learning and leveraging the past and creating a more resilient and shared future for all future patients. Join-us.