"I know personally that having that piece of paper would have encouraged me to open up that dialogue with my health-care team," Willis said.
Everyone agreed that, if anything, cancer care has gotten both easier and more effective in the decade or more since Willis and Ellerbee received their care.
"Things are dramatically different now in the 10 or 12 years since [Willis'] treatment, in terms of what we can do for patients to improve their care," said oncologist Dr. Howard Burris, who is chief medical officer and director of drug development at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute in Nashville, Tenn. "It's really made cancer care an outpatient business."
Ellerbee agreed. "Since my diagnosis, there have been many advances in cancer care, and more people survive every year because of new treatment options," she said. "In other words, it is more possible today to live life as you know it -- and to have that life as you know it go on -- while you are undergoing therapies that can potentially extend your life or save your life."
"It has been 16 years since I was diagnosed with cancer," Ellerbee added, "and every morning that I wake up on the right side of the grass, I am a grateful woman, because I did not let my fears keep me from getting the treatment that I needed."
For more on living with and beyond cancer, visit the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.
SOURCES: Linda Ellerbee, broadcast journalist; Anne Willis, director of survivorship programs, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, Silver Spring, Md.; Howard Burris, M.D., chief medical officer and director, drug development, the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, Nashvil
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