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Breast Cancer Summit teaches how to cope with a diagnosis

Senator Kemp Hannon serves as a panelist on

Senator Kemp Hannon serves as a panelist on NYS health care policy at the Metastatic Breast Cancer Stakeholders Summit held at Hofstra University. (Nov. 21, 2013) (Credit: Meghan Glynn)

For newly diagnosed cancer patients, telling your boss and co-workers that you have cancer can be a scary challenge.

The key to successfully talking about your diagnosis, one expert says, is rehearsing.

"Practice before you have these conversations," said Eva LaManna, program manager for Cancer and Careers, who encourages newly diagnosed patients to identify who in their company would be the best to speak with first.


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LaManna suggests that speaking with your boss and Human Resources department may be good places to start, as they will likely be more familiar on what steps a patient might need to take next in regards to both scheduling and health coverage.

With one of the highest concentrations of breast cancer diagnoses in the country located on Long Island, last week’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Stakeholder Summit, held at Hofstra University, touched on important topics like maintaining a fulfilling life while living with cancer and a discussion on New York’s current policies and areas for improvement in regards to a patient’s care and insurance options.

Cancer and Careers was just one of a handful of groups present at the event. Outside of work, panelists also talked about the changing dynamic a cancer diagnosis can create within a household.

Shera Dubitsky, the clinical supervisor with Sharsharet – a national Jewish organization supporting women facing breast cancer – said that in the past, a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer was seen as a "death sentence," explaining that people would come to a patient’s home as if it were a "Shiva house."

Now, Dubitsky says, women are setting the tone for how they want to deal with their diagnosis.

Family, she said, plays a large role in helping a patient to best cope and manage their diagnosis. Dubitsky asserted that each member cannot play the same role, though.

“Every family member plays a different role – not every person can be one-size-fits-all.”

Dr. Ronald Cohen, a psychologist and panel member on how to maintain a fulfilling life post diagnosis, agreed with Dubitsky about familial roles, but added that not having things perfectly managed at first is also OK. “Going kind of ‘nuts’ with a cancer diagnosis is normal,” explained Cohen.

Sen. Kemp Hannon, NYS’s Senate Health Committee chair, talked NYS policy and health care explaining that metastatic cancer is “something we’re starting to look at as a chronic disease.” He added that because of this, there is a need to adjust health care, policy and treatments.

A large portion of any metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, the summit’s panel also discussed how to combat this disease, a patient will be on any slew of costly medications for the remainder of their lives.

Anita McFarlane, MPH, director of Grants & Public Policy for the Greater New York City Affiliate Susan G. Komen and panelist on NYS policy, said that at the Komen center they “struggle with helping women find money to cover these drugs.”

Hewlett House, cited by many of the panelists as a major asset to patients living with cancer diagnoses on Long Island, provides resources for patients to cope with all of the topics covered, and then more.

More than anything, the uniting theme behind each of the panelists messages was one of strength, support and of the need to communicate about patient care and the future of cancer treatments.

As Geri Barish, executive director for 1 in 9 Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition, said, “I truly believe that if we reach one person, that’s one person more that will be educated.”

For more information on the groups and resources from the summit, see the links below:

Susan G. Komen: http://sgk.mn/Ihec34

Hewlett House / 1in9: http://bit.ly/1iTE4Qo

Cancer and Careers: http://bit.ly/IsYZLV

Sharsharet: http://bit.ly/18ohf5J

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