What makes these doctors' efforts unique, pioneering and heroic are:
- their acknowledgment and validation that cancer treatments cause late effects in cancer survivors. I have often said that, back in 1988, my oncologists forgot to give me the owner's manual to this new and strange behaving cancer-free body that they returned to me. For over 18 years, most doctors just scratched their heads and thought I was a hypochondriac (or worse!) It wasn't until I was seen by Dr. Casillas for the first time in October 2006 that I really felt like a doctor got it (and me) about being a long-term cancer survivor.
- their interest and drive to further both patient care and research in this long overlooked area. Dr. Ganz was a member of the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council Committee that wrote the book From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition and Implementing Cancer Survivorship Care Planning. Dr. Casillas is part of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study and a member of the Children's Oncology Group's Long-Term Follow-Up Guidelines Task Force.
- the time and attention these doctors take with each cancer survivor that comes to see them. In my experience, it is rare to find a doctor that has more than 20 minutes to spend with you. Each time I go for follow-up with the Vital Information and Tailored Assessment (VITA) program, I spend at least (and often more than) one hour with Dr. Casillas and up to an additional hour with the nurse practitioner and social worker. I received a comprehensive multi-page survivorship care plan after each visit and referrals to other medical specialists for follow-up of the late effect issues identified in my visit.
Dr. Jackie Casillas is a pediatric oncologist who has been on staff at UCLA since 2001, after completing a fellowship in pediatric Hematology and Oncology at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA. Her research interests include access to care, quality of life and quality of care for long-term survivors of childhood cancer. She is an active member of several organizations and committees, including the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.
Words can not express how validated, understood and relieved I feel each time I leave my yearly appointment with Dr. Casillas. These doctors and this program is a godsend to long-term cancer survivors like me. Thank you, long-term cancer survivor health care advocates, and my personal health care HEROES, Drs. Casillas and Ganz!