June 30, 2011, Vol. 9 Issue 6
Early this year I was talking with Marcia Anderson at the George Bray Cancer Center at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, about speakers for Cancer Survivor’s Day, June 5. They go all-out with their celebration at the Aqua Turf Club — a sumptuous brunch, with music, family photos, a speaker, and a huge raffle of bountiful gift baskets. Last year’s program was a resounding success featuring a “Keynote Concert” by Jana Stanfield. As those of you who have been with us for years know, Jana is a top-notch performer and team player, and always leaves clients with the “How are we going to top this?” challenge.
We were exploring different options when Marcia said, “Wow, if I could get Dr. Wendy Harpham, that would be my dream come true.” Marcia runs the Auxiliary Cancer Resource Library, and Dr. Harpham’s books are among the most well worn in the library.
“‘When a Parent Has Cancer’ is one of our most popular loaners, ” Marcia said, “to the point of constant replacement when it doesn’t come home. ‘The ‘Worry Cup’ strategy is one I tell all the younger parents about as a jumping off point for facilitating ongoing family conversations. ‘Happiness in a Storm’ is out on loan right now to an employee whose brother has oral cancer and is losing his will to live. I am hoping it will give his sister a way to reach him to pull him from his dark place. It’s an excellent book for caregivers as well as patients.”
Now you have to know that I am a little skeptical of doctors as speakers — and for that matter, all authors aren’t necessarily great speakers either. Dr. Harpham, however, is not only an internist, and an author, she is a seven-time cancer survivor. When the illness took her away from her practice, she found her calling: writing and speaking to advocate for patients and their doctors. When I found her video online and shared it with Marcia, we were both convinced that the warmth of her writing came through in her voice or was it vice versa? This doctor is a winner as a writer, a survivor, a wife, a mom, a genuine human being, and a professional speaker.
Wendy S. Harpham, MD
?HAPPINESS IN A STORM
Sharing the Message of Healthy Survivorship
“Are you here for the cancer party?” That was how the parking lot attendant greeted Wendy, as her driver pulled up to the Aqua Turf Club in New Britain, CT.
“Cancer party? That gave me a pretty good indication that it was going to be a very special day,” she said. As a public speaker and patient advocate, she attends a lot of cancer conferences and survivor celebrations.
Born, raised and educated in upstate New York, she moved to Texas in 1979 to complete her post-graduate training in internal medicine. In 1983, she opened a solo practice at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, where she combined the best of modern technology with old-fashioned caring. Based on her belief that well-informed patients do better and feel better, she developed teaching tools to educate her patients about their illnesses and treatments.
Wendy told her patients she’d care for them until she retired on her 80th birthday. But her dream was shattered in 1990 by her diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She was only 36 years old. She has been in and out of treatment ever since. With the same determination that marked her work as a physician, she has overcome the many challenges of life as a cancer patient. “Within weeks of my diagnosis, I realized that I was learning so much that would be helpful to patients,” she said. “I had the background — the medical knowledge of a physician — and now I was having the experiences and the insights of a patient facing life-threatening illness.
“I started exploring and writing about all aspects of survivorship. How illness affects family, dealing with recovery after completion of treatment, dealing with fatigue during and after treatment. How to find hope when treatments aren’t going well. How to make difficult treatment decisions. How to calm fear of recurrence. And how to balance hope and acceptance.
“I found there was a world out there that needed to be written about and shared with patients,” she said. “I found myself in the unique position of having a very useful perspective for helping patients.”
With the publication of her first book in 1992, she coined the term “Healthy Survivor” and presented her three step approach to “Healthy Survivorship”: (1) Obtain sound knowledge, (2) Find and nourish hope, and (3) Act effectively. Her later books also made significant contributions to survivorship by discussing the notions of a “new normal” and “post-cancer fatigue,” as well as offering the practical “Harpham Decision Tool” to help patients make wise treatment decisions. All of Dr. Harpham’s books blend scientific evidence-based information with practical philosophy.
“What I discovered was a broad arc of the healing circle that had been invisible to me when I was so busy in my practice, and, happily, I became re-integrated into the guild of healers. I was in a position where I could help patients understand how they could be effective patients and help their doctors and nurses care for them. I could speak to them as a physician survivor and advocate for physicians and nurses. I also felt that I could advocate for patients because I’d been there. And with our shared background as healthcare professionals, I thought the doctors and nurses would really listen.”
Known for her wit, Wendy has become a nationally recognized keynote speaker. Marcia told me that Wendy is a tiny woman. That is, until she steps up to the podium. From there, she said, she lights up exponentially, like a bright light. And, she’s funny. With her quick wit and the knowingness that only someone who has been through the cancer experience can exude, she connects with patients and their families, on a deep, deep level. This, as they say in the ads, is priceless.
“The most important reason that compelled me to do this work, is that I’m a physician, I’m a doctor, and helping others is what I do,” she says.
“Keys have always held special significance for me,” Wendy said. “My maiden name (now my middle name) comes from the German word for key: Schlüssel. I have a few key pendants. But a 4″ x 10 ” solid bronze engraved key to the city?”
Marcia in turn, was ecstatic about the contribution of that keynote address to the overall program development of George Bray Cancer Center. “We are about to launch into building a brand new cancer center,” Marcia said. “We will be breaking ground later this year, and I believe that the message of hope that you brought to patients, caregivers, and oncology professionals will lift us up for years to come.”
Wendy’s lymphoma is in remission, but limited stamina prevents her from returning to clinical medicine. So she continues to devote her energy to helping survivors through her speaking, writing — books, articles and blog — and activities as a patient advocate — member of steering committees, oversight boards and think tanks, and interviewee on national TV, where she has appeared on shows such as The Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show.
The Speak Well Being Group is just so proud to include her among our speakers. We feel like she adds to who we are – who the rest of us are. And certainly Marcia has indicated what she brings to a cancer event. If you’d like information about booking her for your event or want to see her video, see her profile on our website.
What We Learn From Each Other
I love this example that illustrates our motto of “Co-creating health and wellness through connections.” We are so much more than our website. When my circle of influence meets your circle of influence, our circles expand. I’m not a cancer patient, expert or survivor, but by working with a client who is in that field, we all get to learn, share our passions, and create an outstanding outcome for the client, audience and speaker. Plus, we’ve added a speaker to our roster to share with the rest of you. It’s a win, win, win.
Beyond GREENS . . .
Crisp Summer SALAD Idea
My husband and I were invited last weekend to a dinner party on a houseboat. Almost out the door, reading the directions on the invitation, I noticed that we were supposed to bring a salad or dessert. GULP. Well, I had everything to throw together a tossed green salad in a hurry, and I make a pretty wicked salad, so that’s what I did. We got to the party and there were FOUR green salads — well, one had mangoes and cucumbers in it — for a dozen people.
I wish I’d had a bag of shredded broccoli slaw in the fridge. I’ve been making this broccoli salad frequently lately — which is why there was no bag of slaw on hand. It’s quick, delicious, and healthy, and the recipe is on the bag of broccoli slaw from Trader Joe’s — other stores carry slaw, too, but TJ’s bag is where I got the recipe.
Empty the bag of broccoli slaw into a bowl. Add 1 diced apple, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/4 cup dried cherries, cut-up.
The recipe calls for 1 cup of your choice of salad dressing but I think 1/2 cup is plenty. I’ve used either TJ’s Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette or Light Champagne Vinaigrette and loved it both ways. Or try it with your own favorite, and let me know how it turns out.
This is a great accompaniment for summertime barbecues, and also makes a yummy snack.
Until next time, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.
PLEASE NOTE: The information shared in this e-news is designed to help you make informed decisions about speakers and the programs they offer. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment prescribed by a doctor. If you suspect you have a medical problem, seek competent medical help.