Deborah Newhouse’s third diagnosis of cancer may have been devastating, but she smiles broadly when talking about her experience, and how she continues to survive with it, even now in remission.
“The key is remaining positive,” says Newhouse. “Look forward to every day. Don’t let yourself be consumed by it.”
Newhouse is an active participant in Kaiser Permanente’s unique Survive and Thrive program at Santa Clara, an ongoing cancer support program, offering many innovative classes and resources to nourish and strengthen the mind, body and spirit in all stages of cancer treatment and survivorship.
“Yes, radiation and chemotherapy are challenging, and it’s very easy to fall into depression,” says Newhouse, who is a former tri-athlete. “I forced myself to get out, stay active, and it worked.”
“The classes changed my life,” says Jo Murto, another Survive and Thrive participant from San Jose. “I learned simple depression-fighting strategies, like writing down what I’m grateful for.”
Through strength-training tailored to her specific cancer, Murto lost a lot of weight that the cancer drugs cause survivors to gain.
“’I’ve lost 25 pounds and it’s not because I’m sick,” says Murto. “I can circle one of Kaiser medical offices in two minutes, compared to more than four minutes when treatment ended.”
Murto’s taken all the classes: stress management, nutrition, restorative yoga, strength training, and even a cancer fighting cooking class with Whole Foods. One class prepares survivors for life challenges after treatment ends.
“Cancer survivorship really starts at diagnosis,” says Dr. Susan Kutner, a Kaiser Permanente Northern California leader in Breast Cancer Care. “Aside from the therapies and treatments, physicians must look at the days, months, and years the patient will be with us.”
Indeed, Kutner’s work improving early diagnoses and speedy treatment has increased the length of breast cancer survival in Kaiser Permanente.
The National Cancer Institute estimates there are now 13.7-million people living after being diagnosed with cancer in the United States, and it’s estimated that two out of three cancer patients will live longer than five years after diagnosis. The Centers for Disease Control note that cancer survivors often face physical, emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual difficulties as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment.
To that end, Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara and San Jose Medical Centers are co-sponsoring a Cancer Survivors Day of education and celebration June 23. In addition to exercise and nutrition, the day at Kaiser’s Santa Clara campus will emphasize positive thinking and emotional wellness through workshops, demonstrations and dozens of educational booths. One booth will be for hair donations to “Wigs for Kids.” It was inspired by workers at the KP Santa Clara Cancer Treatment Center.
Emmanuel Lopez, a radiation therapist, once met a pediatric cancer patient who donated her own hair, before losing it in chemotherapy, to help other kids being treated for cancer. Lopez wanted to follow in her footsteps. Three years and 10 inches of hair later, Lopez is ready to cut it all off. “I went from one bottle of shampoo a year, to one bottle a month. I’m ready to donate!”
Co-worker Aracelli Manzo is also donating her thick, long hair. “We’ve got professional hair stylists coming to Survivor Day to do the cutting. I hope my donation for wigs will bring kids confidence and happiness during treatment.”
“At our cancer program at KP Santa Clara,” says Dr. Anita Lee, Radiation Oncology. “We treat our patients as whole beings, with more than just the diagnosis of cancer.”