Almost 20 years ago, I had Hodgkin's lymphoma and was treated with radiation therapy. When I recently moved to Portland, I searched for somewhere to get follow-up care: That's when I learned about Doernbecher's Survivorship Program.
I thought this program might be only for kids. Since I'm in my thirties, I wondered if I was too old. But when I called and spoke with Kitt Swartz, she was awesome, helpful and very welcoming. She explained the Survivorship Program is for anyone who's been treated for a childhood or young adult cancer.
I made an appointment, and then OHSU obtained all my history and contacted my previous doctors. That really reassured me: They didn't just see me without any history; they went and did all the research.
When I came to Doernbecher, I spent the whole day there: Ultrasounds, MRI, blood work, lung function tests, echocardiogram and more. It was really thorough. In one day, I saw about ten providers.
Besides the physical stuff, I also met with a psychiatrist and a social worker—these were providers I wouldn't have thought to see on my own. At the end of the day, I sat down with Dr. Susan Lindemulder and got to talk to her about everything that had gone on. I knew that Dr. Lindemulder is the director of the Survivorship Program and specializes in long-term care for childhood cancer survivors, so I felt sure I was in good hands. It's a double-edged sword: We can treat childhood cancer so well now that cancer survivorship is becoming a big issue.
I'd been looking for a program because about five years after cancer, it's like you fall off the map. You're in remission, you seem healthy, you feel like you don't need any care—but in fact, there are so many possible long-term effects of radiation and chemo that you have to watch out for 15-20 years later. So it was a huge relief to find a place where they can coordinate all this and understand what I need and why it's so important.