Monica Knoll, executive director of CANCER101, gives tips on how to remain in remission after a cancer treatment.
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Remaining in Remission After Cancer Question: After receiving successful treatment, what steps can women take to ensure they remain in remission? Monica Knoll: I think there are a few important things that patients need to do in order to prevent a recurrence. The first thing is to really manage your own follow up appointments. I think there’s a few of us that were surprised that doctors don’t send that little card out in the mail to remind you like a dentist used to do to remind you of those follow up appointments. It’s your responsibility to manage those and you’ve got several doctor’s appointments to follow up depending on the type of treatment. For me I had to follow up with my surgeon, an oncologist, my radiologist, and for a while, first year, my plastic surgeon. So there were several appointments that I needed to manage and monitor and that is critical that you stay on top of that. They’re not going to call and remind you. It’s-- It doesn’t happen and so it’s your responsibility. I also believe that changing your lifestyle is important. This is a new lifestyle. You have had cancer. It’s over. You’re done. Your hair starts to grow back and you start to feel better and healthy and your life moves on, but at the end of the day you had cancer and it’s now lifestyle that you need to monitor and manage. That means looking at your diet and eating healthy foods. There’s been a big link to be-- have-- be-- having extra weight and fat in the diet and on your body linking with cancer so being healthy and eating well, exercise and just being very cognizant of how you’re-- you feel on a day-to-day basis, how your body feels, and recognizing any potential symptoms to make that phone call if there’s any concern. Question: What keeps you motivated? Monica Knoll: Well, I’ll tell you I definitely treated this cancer a little differently than the first one. I knew to take care of myself. I knew to stay positive. I knew to wait to find out all the information when I went to see my doctors before I panicked, before I went to the web site, so I implemented everything that I-- from experience. I did exactly what I tell everybody else to do. I followed the rules. I called my insurance carrier. I made sure to have all my questions ready and prepared before my doctors’ appointments. I had all my paperwork and my slides, pathology report. I asked all the questions and had several opinions before we went ahead and made the final decision of the treatment that I would take on so- and even going through the process—-I hate to say it but ovarian cancer I thought oh, I had breast cancer; I know what the surgery is going to be like; I’ve had that; I’ve—I was or I’ve had chemotherapy. Well, it was about ten times harder with the surgery and the chemo. That was a bit of a surprise but the process remained exactly how I knew to get through it and I was able to stay positive and keep my family from panicking and my friends from panicking, which is unfortunately one of the jobs that sometimes we end up taking on is keeping everybody else calm when your friends and family start to really panic, but I was very lucky. I got again an opportunity to see some wonderful doctors. What else? I had my CANCER101 planner and I- just before I was about to go to press to prepare this planner for people with breast cancer I had to stop the process. We were at-- in the middle of editing and about to send it to the printer and I grabbed the prototype and I used it and though it was designed for people with breast cancer it was the organizer component that really got me through the process and was able to keep me calm and focused about my next steps. I had a place to put all my appointments, my notes, my business cards and it really helped my mother who was—flew in from Chicago to be with me. As a mother, she was just devastated. So I think the planner really kept us both organized and everything. All our notes were in one place so we could share this book together.