(Editor's Note: The writer is a 36-year cancer survivor as well as the president/CEO of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, which is headquartered in Silver Spring, MD.)
For millions of us surviving cancer in the U.S. today, every year is precious - something we hope Congress will keep in mind as it returns to its work in 2008.
While people diagnosed with cancer often feel thankful for their survivorship, life beyond cancer has unique challenges and complexities that have not been adequately addressed by our health care system. Cancer treatment can have serious immediate and long-term psychosocial and physical effects, as well as related health issues that appear in later years - such as organ and tissue damage (i.e., heart, lung, and digestive problems), osteoporosis, memory and attention difficulties, and second cancers to mention a few.
As we enter this new year, we are especially thankful that leaders such as Congressman Peter King have taken the time to understand the unmet needs of cancer survivors by supporting legislation that addresses many of those needs. The Comprehensive Cancer Care Improvement Act (H.R. 1078) encourages the use of a cancer care planning system that would improve long-term follow-up care when primary cancer treatment has ended. This legislation would also help people diagnosed with cancer get a written plan of their treatment before it begins so they have an idea of what to expect and are better equipped to ask questions and participate in their treatment decisions.
With more than 10.5 million cancer survivors nationwide and 1.5 new diagnoses each year, there are a lot of people to be grateful for Rep. King's support of the effort to provide quality care for people with cancer - and a lot of people hoping his congressional colleagues will follow suit.