Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Oracle of Atlanta

According to Wikipedia, an oracle is a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic opinion.

That's the best way I can describe Emory social worker Jean Rowe after her presentation at the Young Survivor's Conference. The Sunday morning workshop was titled: Advanced Breast Cancer: Living in the Moment to Live Fully Every Day.

I'll admit I was a little nervous about attending, unsure if I would be invading a "safe space" for women with metastatic disease. But as I was guest blogging for, I felt a responsibility to make sure these women and this aspect of the conference were included. 

Oncology social workers have an huge amount of ground to cover. Rowe presented information ranging from the practical to the spiritual. While some of her suggestions were specific to advanced breast cancer, others are useful for anyone facing a medical crisis.

Rowe says that stage four women are put in a managerial position, where the patient develops an intimate relationship with cancer. She made some practical suggestions about when to consider going on disability, and encouraged the audience to see the move as an opportunity to set new goals.

The social worker points out that living fully may mean,"breaking the mold," and suggested that,"Even a tiny step towards acceptance does not mean defeat, it is healing." She emphasized that late stage cancer patients have a right to hope, and suggested shifting thinking from, "What do I do now?" to, "What do I want to do?"

One option Rowe suggested was seeking "Wow!" experiences, and mentioned the wish trips offered by the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation

Rowe believes that self, soul, and heart all make up the true essence of who we are. To help the audience move closer to that realization, she had participants quickly write down a list of life goals, and then read them out loud to the room. 

I'll leave you with a sample of what the women in Atlanta hope to achieve.

Adopt a baby

Have a book published

Go to Hawaii

Renew wedding vows

Be on Good Morning America
Have 1,000 members on a "Race for the Cure" team

Go to a High School prom

Learn how to dance hip-hop

Have sex more often

Have a celebration of life party

On a personal note, I hope all these ladies' dreams, and many more come true.


Jean Rowe, LCSW is a medical oncology social worker at Emory Winship Cancer Institute and holds a 17-year career as a paralegal. She provides counseling and support to people with brain tumors, breast cancer, gynecologic cancer and melanoma. Ms. Rowe also facilitates groups for young women with breast cancer and women with metastatic breast cancer. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the Georgia Social Work Oncology Group, and is active in the Association of Oncology Social Workers.

1 comment:

  1. Edited at 6:00. Please excuse any errors in the first draft. One of the quirks of blogger is I have to publish to see what things look like!