Surviving cancer takes more than medicine

Recent estimates from the American Cancer Society (ACS) put the number of cancer survivors living in the U.S. right now at about 13.7 million, and in the next decade that number should hit 18 million.

Many of those survivors, especially young patients, will face unique issues after cancer treatment: dealing with emotional and physical side effects, legal rights concerning health care and employment, reproduction issues, getting appropriate follow-up care and readjusting to school and social lives. Because younger patients have such special needs, Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC) has many programs to help.

Lisa Diller, MD

Under the guidance of Chief Medical Officer Lisa Diller, MD, who is globally recognized for her contributions to cancer survivorship and pediatric oncology, DF/CHCC offers resources to help young cancer survivors address issues like the long-term effects of treatment, the risk of second cancers and the psychological concerns of being a cancer survivor. Diller herself has worked throughout her career to reduce the incidence and severity of secondary cancers in young adults who received radiation therapy for cancer as children.

“Cancer survivors will tell you that that everyone thinks they’re back to normal once their hair grows back, but it can take a lot longer to get there,” Diller says. “That’s why survivorship programs are so vital, giving us a vehicle to provide patients with the follow-up care and planning they’ll need to live healthy lives.”

Thursday a, June 21, at 6:30 p.m., Diller, her colleagues and survivors from across New England will celebrate Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s annual Living Proof event, honoring cancer survivors everywhere. It’s a joyous occasion, and the numbers from the ACS give this year’s attendees plenty to celebrate.

Learn more about the event here.

For other inspiring tales of survivorship, check out the stories of these brave DF/CHCC patients:


Jean in 1968

Treating childhood cancer: 60 years of progress When Jean Shaw first came to Boston Children’s Hospital in 1951, the world was a rapidly changing place. The Korean War was escalating new tensions between America and the Soviet Union, a reactor in Idaho became the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power source and teenagers everywhere were discovering a new type of music called rock n’ roll.

Fortunately for Jean the world of medicine was changing as well, especially in Boston.

Ariana was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at just 2 months old.

Taking on cancer with a smile When Ariana Cepeda was just 2 months old, her mother made a terrifying discovery while changing the small girl’s diaper. As Sara looked down at her baby on the changing table, she was horrified to see that Ariana’s entire midsection was covered in bruises. The next day Ariana was at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).


Charlie received treatment at DF/CHCC

Processing my son’s cancer Caroline Rider used to work in publishing before her three children were born. Life was going according to plan until her son, Charlie, was diagnosed with cancer. After that her world tipped upside down, and in the shuffle Caroline found herself publishing again, but in a different capacity than what she was used to.


Back to school At age 11 R.J. Agostinelli was diagnosed with ALL, a cancer of the white blood cells. He missed seven months of elementary school while having chemotherapy. Here, R.J. talks about what it was like returning to his class after a long absence.