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Patient, Care Partner and Researcher Helps Other Patients Navigate Cancer Diagnosis

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Published on February 27, 2017

As part of our coverage from the 2017 ASCO survivorship symposium in San Diego, Patient Power catches up with Treasa McPherson, Director of Oncology of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Treasa is not only an administrative director and researcher, but also a patient and care partner. Listen as Treasa shares her journey with cancer and discusses patient support from the time of diagnosis through survivorship.

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Transcript | Patient, Care Partner and Researcher Helps Other Patients Navigate Cancer Diagnosis

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That's how you’ll get care that's most appropriate for you.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Treasa McPherson:

My husband and I both worked on the Human Genome Project at Washington University. That sort of projected us into this realm of being able to work on any kind of genome. We could work on plant genomes, human genomes, but what we wound up doing, and finally really caring a lot about, is cancer genomes and what is going on with human disease. In 2008, my mother presented with a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer.

I was able to go back home with her in Missouri and take care of her for the 8 months of her journey. She progressed exactly as planned to textbook. She passed away in January of 2009. I presented with a lump in January of 2010. That was the diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer with a lumpectomy and node negative. I had distance chemotherapy and radiation after that.

After that, when I was doing very well, I wound up finding my father-in-law had a diagnosis of esophageal cancer and on scan a secondary cancer of the lung. He had an esphagectomy and a right lobe removal of his lung, and he is doing fine.

During all of these cancer journeys that I was on as a caregiver, a patient and a researcher, I started finding that there are gaps in folks’ ability to get to care and to get to the services that they need—or to even find out about services that they don’t even know exists and the help that they can get—like, maneuvering through the insurance companies and getting the psychosocial support. 

When we were talking about moving from Canada to UC Davis, I am going to make a pitch and make a complete change to come out of the lab and find a way to help people with those social services. That is what I did. I wrote a proposal and said that I want to help people all the way from diagnosis to palliative care and hospice.  

I think that there is a huge opportunity here to help people and connect those silos of social work, dieticians, peer navigation and the chaplaincy to help people find the things that they need that can help them get through their journey the best. Even with food disparities, and that kind of thing, we help people find the help that they need.   

It is working really well. We are able to help families with disparities, food disparities, the ability to give them gas cards. Maybe they need a ride to get to their cancer treatments. We are doing outreach to different populations. We have a huge program with the American Indian population that goes all the way to the Oregon border. We work with the Asian American populations with hepatitis. We have these really great outreach programs that are helping folks.  

I think it is important. I think we are making a lot of movement, including in meetings like this, where we are talking about survivorship starts at diagnosis and having that mentalityfinally giving people the voice that they need. The patient has the right and the ability to ask for certain things, including their survivorship care plan.   

And if they need to have a full description of the treatments that they are getting so that they understand what is happening to them, they have those rights. People of my mother’s generation, they would never dream of asking a doctor for something like that. People of my mother’s generation dressed up to go to the doctor’s office and would never ask them for anything. I think it is working out.  We can take this off if you want.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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