“Once you have had the cancer diagnosis, you don’t go through any other health care issue—a headache, a fever, a virus – without the prospect of another diagnosis of cancer hanging over your head,” says Chris Parker.
He knows that mostly from his personal experience as a prostate cancer survivor, though he has also been a caregiver to family members with cancer and a provider of health care: a trained family physician working with underserved and faith-based organizations. He is a Masters of Public Health graduate of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and is the Director of Population and Global Health at the Georgia Health Policy Center. Among his many projects is directing strategic planning for Georgia’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Consortium and facilitating its Steering Team.
“Cancer survivors should know what specific signs to look for that might indicate recurrence, and should have a good understanding of what short and long term side effects they can expect from their specific treatment,” he adds.
Chris is a prostate cancer survivor since 2011. His father also had prostate cancer at age 60, and survived another 15 years after a radical prostatectomy, radiotherapy and hormonal treatments. His mother died of colorectal cancer and his two sisters are breast cancer survivors.
He can bear witness to the stress from cancer that can’t help but influence your life and your health. After diagnosis and treatment, there is the expectation that cancer survivors re-enter the “normal” world. But, it is a “new normal,” one that is hard to get others to understand.
What worked for him was putting all the information he could find together to fully understand his disease, the treatment options, and the short and long term impact on his health. As an educated survivor, he has planned his course of action. For his physical needs, he is paying more attention to what he eats and how he exercises. Spiritually, he connects with a higher power and mentally, he does everything he can to enjoy life.
“I must be my best advocate,” he says.
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