You Are Not Alone: How Networking with a Cancer Survivor Might Just Save Your Life

 When cancer comes up in conversation, do you change the topic or move away? Or do you ask the questions that may possibly save your life or the life of someone you love?


No doubt about it: Cancer is a conversation stopper. It’s a sad, scary subject, and most people would just as soon avoid it. If the “C-word” comes up at church, at work, or at a party, your first impulse is probably to change the subject or move away from the group. That’s a mistake. Even if your life hasn’t been touched by cancer—an unlikely scenario these days—there’s a good chance it will be in the future. Why not look at the conversation as a networking opportunity?

That’s right—networking. By gathering valuable information and forging connections with others who are dealing with cancer, you might well make a lifesaving difference when someone you love is in the same situation. We network all the time when we’re looking to move up in our careers or promote our business. It’s our best method of gathering information to help us make smart decisions. Yet when it comes to a cancer discussion, many people turn away and run.

The top five questions you should ask when making a cancer connection:

 1. What type and stage of cancer did you (or your loved one) have?

No two cancers are alike. The stage at diagnosis is critical, too. If the patient’s cancer was stage IV, the battle would have been an uphill climb—and completely different from the experience of a patient whose cancer was a stage I or II.

If you find yourself talking to a stage IV esophageal or pancreatic cancer survivor, you’ve found a golden opportunity. While some cancers have low odds of survival, there are survivors out there. These cancers may be rare, but not so rare that it might not strike a family member or friend.

2. What was the primary cancer treatment facility involved in your (or your loved one’s) care?

This is one of the most important decisions that cancer families have to make. Cancer treatment facilities are not created equal. The best facility for each cancer patient should be determined by factors such as having the right equipment for their particular cancer needs, in addition to on-staff qualified oncologists and a cancer team who deal daily with the intricacies of that type of cancer.

It’s not reasonable to believe that every cancer treatment facility can treat all of the 120+ types of cancer. While many facilities can effectively treat prostate cancer, only a handful may be able to treat cancers that are rare such as multiple myeloma. Location, location, location—it’s absolutely critical. Yet, in many cases, patients focus more on getting treatment at a facility that is convenient to their homes instead of focusing on their life-and-death war against cancer.

3. Who was the primary oncologist at that facility who directed your (or your loved one’s) care?

Once you’ve established the “where,” it’s time to figure out the “who” of cancer care. There are many oncologists at every facility. Some are good; some are not as good. Some deal exclusively with lung cancer—others only with blood-borne cancers. The next step is to find out the name of the oncologist—whether the result was good or bad. I have a hard time remembering names, and if you have the same problem—write it down as soon as you can.

If the person you’re talking to speaks negatively of the doctor’s attitude, you may not want to place too much emphasis on it. His or her skill—not his or her personality—should be the focus. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a great oncologist who has both. But experience and knowledge are paramount considerations over everything else.

4. What do you believe was the key to your (or your loved one’s) success?

OR Why do you believe your treatment (or that of your loved one) failed?

Tough questions. The attributes that led to the success or failure of a cancer campaign are critical. Was the cancer discovered too late? Did the patient get a second—or even third—opinion? Were there support groups available, and did the patient take advantage of any of them? The answers to these questions can be vital information.

A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. Being prepared—if given the right opportunity to learn—makes good sense. And, you may be surprised to find a pattern regarding a specific treatment facility or even a specific oncologist.

5. What organizations were the most helpful to you?

Usually, cancer patients, their caregivers, and their families get information and support from cancer-related organizations. Ask the person which ones helped the patient the most.

There are general cancer organizations such as the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Then there are organizations specific to a type of cancer. All of these can be accessed on the Internet or phoned for direct information. The support and information that they can provide may be invaluable to you on your cancer journey.

The Saving of Gordon: Lifelines to W-I-N Against Cancer

(available at and

Based on Joni’s experience and years of research, this inspirational and informative book is designed to give families a fighting chance in their own cancer battle.

Would you like to send something special to someone who’s going through a health-related hardship? Why not send them a Basket of Care ( These baskets are lovingly designed by a cancer survivor and are chock-full of practical items that will lend comfort. Or what about a “Day at the Beach” basket for a child who is ill? A Basket of Care is just the way to say “I care” anytime.

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Author: jonialdrich

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