Celebrate every day. A cancer journey is uncertain but so is life in general. Make the most of the time you have and do not sweat the small stuff.
Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. There is so much great information out there, but sometimes it is very difficult to filter out the noise. What causes cancer? Can it be prevented? How do you detect it? What are the odds of survival today? What are the different forms of cancer? What are the best treatments? And what is the best way to support someone impacted by cancer?
In this interview series called, “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer” we are talking to experts about cancer such as oncologists, researchers, and medical directors to address these questions. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Schorr.
Andrew Schorr is a 25-year cancer survivor and a leading cancer patient-advocate. He is living with two blood cancers and continues his “pay it forward” empowerment work as an executive vice president of Remedy Health Media and Co-Founder of Patient Power, a website dedicated to providing information and educational resources to cancer patients and professionals, reaching thousands each day through live broadcasts, videos, and articles.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I always loved watching TV network news and dreamed of being a correspondent. I did eventually become a TV reporter and producer but once I covered serious illness and realized the need for ongoing patient education, I decided to focus on that. THEN I became a patient myself!
This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?
I want to end suffering from cancer, and I know getting the right information to people can help calm their fears, allow them to be more in control, and lead to better care.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am working on two: One is to form round-the-clock advisory panels of patients with distinct cancer types to inform developers of new medicines as well as government regulators. Another is to develop more humanistic cancer support programs for employees of major corporations.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of Cancer?
I have lived with leukemia since 1996 and a second blood cancer since 2011. I have been in two clinical trials that saved my life. I have founded two companies to educate and empower cancer patients and I have interviewed thousands of world cancer experts and patients on a broad range of cancer topics. I wrote an acclaimed book: “The Web-Savvy Patient”. While I didn’t solicit them, my work has won numerous awards.
Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s start with some basic definitions so that we are all on the same page. What is exactly cancer?
Cancer is your own cells gone haywire. Those abnormal cells don’t die off like healthy cells do and as they continue living, they block healthy cells from doing their job.
What causes cancer?
It is not one disease. Some cancers can be caused by smoking or environmental causes or diet, some by heredity, some by damage to or aging of certain genes, some we just don’t know — yet.
What is the difference between the different forms of cancer?
There are many differences. One difference is where the cancer is in the body, another key is what is the biological make-up of the cancer.
I know that the next few questions are huge topics, but we’d love to hear your thoughts regardless. How can cancer be prevented?
Not all cancers can, yet. But a healthy diet, reducing exposure to environmental toxins, screening for genomic risk factors, exercising, and stopping smoking, can all help.
How can one detect the main forms of cancer?
Skin checks, prostate checks, lung X-rays, mammograms, sonograms, and self-exams, colonoscopy, pap smears and GI exams, and patients seeking care if they notice anything different. For example, unexplained weight loss, headache, blurry vision, back ache, chronic cough, a lump, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, blood in urine or stool.
Cancer used to almost be a death sentence, but it seems that it has changed today. What are the odds of surviving cancer today?
For many cancers the odds are high, certainly for the CLL leukemia I have. Brain cancer and pancreatic cancer are much tougher.
Can you share some of the new cutting-edge treatments for cancer that have recently emerged? What new cancer treatment innovations are you most excited to see come to fruition in the near future?
Protein inhibitors have made a huge difference in many blood cancers. CAR-T or chimeric antigen receptor t- cell therapy is a big deal in several blood cancers and CAR-NK therapy may be less toxic and less expensive.
Healing usually takes place between doctor visits. What have you found to be most beneficial to assist a patient to heal? Becoming knowledgeable, connecting with others for inspiration, exercise and having a hopeful, supportive network around you. Also, having confidence in a healthcare team you can reach at anytime.
From your experience, what are a few of the best ways to support a loved one, friend, or colleague who is impacted by cancer?
Visit with them, Go to treatment with them. Encourage them to speak up about what they are feeling and ask questions of their healthcare team. Encourage them to not be afraid to “go public” or ask for support.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?
“Cancer is a death sentence.” — Most people won’t die of cancer anytime soon. There has been real progress for many cancers.
“The doctor knows best” — Better informed patients, including those who seek second opinions, who speak up get better care.
“Trial patients are guinea pigs.” — Clinical trials can give you tomorrow’s medicine today.
Thank you so much for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what are your “5 Things Everyone Needs To Know About Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.
- Cancer is usually not a death sentence. When I was diagnosed with leukemia at age 45, I thought I would be dead soon thereafter. I did not understand that there are many subtypes of cancer and that my leukemia was very non-aggressive, unlike the acute leukemia that took the life of a prominent leader in my city. My situation was much different.
- There are many subtypes of cancer, and it is imperative you receive genomic testing to see what is driving your cancer at that moment. There are now many targeted medicines for specific subtypes, and they make all the difference.
- You are not alone. Many others have gone before you and there are organizations and groups waiting to support you.
- There is financial assistance for treatments and clinical trials, but you have to speak up. Don’t be proud and feel that the assistance is for someone else. It’s for you.
- Celebrate every day. A cancer journey is uncertain but so is life in general. Make the most of the time you have and do not sweat the small stuff.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Have everyone know they have a right to state -of-the-art care, and they should never hesitate to seek it out. Further, they should demand “precision medicine for me” with testing and targeted treatments that ensure they get what is best for them. Accept nothing less.
How can our readers further follow your work online? Visit the Patient Power website (https://patientpower.info/) (and my bio: https://patientpower.info/bio/andrew-schorr-3/) as well as Patient Power Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/PatientPower.Info) and my personal LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschorr/
Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.
About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente helps cancer survivors overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.
Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.
He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Food Network, WW, Bloomberg, Amazon, and Facebook. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.
Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.