Jonathan Cohen is a gastroenterologist and founder of MD Medical Navigators. Jon discusses his attraction to the intensity of interactions between physicians, patients, and family, as well as the intellectual and emotional aspects of practicing medicine. He also talks about the desire to innovate and follow his curiosity, which is at the center of his personal approach to his profession. Jon discusses how his desire to explore from different perspectives, coupled with a keen sense of the need for humility, has led him to a new endeavor as an advocate for patients and families as they navigate their health care.
Today’s story is a personal one for the host of Real Cancer, as her friendship with this guest and his engagement with the search for a diagnosis led to treatment that saved her life.
Cecily Young’s husband, John Ruble, underwent a bone marrow transplant as treatment for leukemia in 2005. Cecily talks about providing for her husband’s wellbeing, as well as that of their young son, during his treatment and recovery. Using the metaphor of herself as a ship’s captain, she envisioned herself as charged with maintaining morale and keeping the everyday concerns of their lives afloat. Cecily also delves into the devastating conflict she experienced with her sister while caring for their mother, as well as the feelings of resentment engendered by the significant professional sacrifices she made as a result of being persistently pressed into service as a reluctant caregiver.
Shannon Murphy, psychotherapist and mindfulness practitioner, was diagnosed in 2007 with breast cancer. She has been cancer free for ten years. Shannon talks about her decision to attend to the emotional aspects of cancer throughout her journey. She recounts speaking with cancer survivors to understand how they coped with the trauma of a cancer diagnosis and its treatment, and to understand how this experience could lead to profound personal change. She also talks about the transformative aspects of this traumatic experience and how facing a mortal danger led to healing of a damaged relationship. She also talks about how the experience strengthened her practice of mindfulness and meditation, leading to transformative personal growth.
The fear that patients and their loved ones experience is one of the most difficult aspects of a cancer diagnosis. In addition to managing the fear of death, how do cancer patients with kids cope with the fear that their children will lose a parent?
Today I’m speaking with Marissa Weiss, mother, teacher, and dancer, who in 2016 was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction as part of her complex cancer treatment. Marissa talks about dealing with the overwhelming fear that her young children might grow up without their mother and how her husband’s sense of humor and the laughter they shared served an antidote to the terror they experienced throughout the process. Marissa also reflects on the very personal decision to have a double mastectomy and how she has coped with trauma by being in the moment, making meaning, and finding purpose in her cancer experience.