Johanna Flynn is a breast-cancer survivor; she was diagnosed in 1998 at the age of 46. Her treatment included chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. This year marks Johanna's 10 years as a cancer survivor and she is now focused on wellness and quality of life.
"Survivorship is about growth toward a new concept of wellness for me. If I don't take care of myself, I can't take care of others. A big part of that is quality of life," she said. "The gift of cancer has been to understand that the quantity of life is ultimately limited - whether or not I had cancer. I didn't really get the idea of quality until I realized that every moment is part of a string of experiences to which I can make myself open."
During Johanna's visit in the Survivorship Program's clinic, she was able to discuss with the nurse practitioner quality-of-life issues and ways to improve her health. She explored the long-term effects of cancer and its treatment, which had led to early menopause, putting her at risk for osteoporosis and subsequent bone fracture. As a result of her appointment in the Survivorship Program, Johanna received a referral to a bone specialist after having a DEXA scan (a test that measures bone density), which revealed osteoporosis.
Johanna also had the opportunity to consult with experts in nutrition and psychology. She consulted with a nutritionist about her bone health and high cholesterol level. Johanna consulted with a psychologist to discuss issues that commonly impact cancer survivors, including emotional adjustment after cancer and fear of recurrence.
"Being seen in the Survivorship Program has been a godsend," Johanna said. "Cancer is not the focus of my life, but it has had an impact. Trying to navigate the health-care system within the cancer community has been frustrating. I think it is pretty common for providers to think that because I have survived this long, there are no longer any issues. Not so!"
"Due to the way cancer affects all of us in different ways, it is very important to have a medical home. For me, the biggest issue is having a support network of people who understand what it means to be a cancer survivor, no matter how many years. Providers at the Survivorship Program understand this need, which is why they are so good at determining my health needs and making the kinds of referrals that meet them. I feel as if I came home."
Johanna is married and has two adult children. She plays a vital role as a caregiver within her family, so maintaining good health and quality of life as a cancer survivor are important not only to her, but to her family.