Cancer in Someone Hairier Than Me and You

August 25, 2012
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Peanut has a blood cancer – non- Hodgkin lymphoma – and she’s getting great medical care. Do you know her? If you live in South Florida you might. This is one cancer patient who is getting a lot of publicity. Is she a movie star or politician? No. Is she a well-known patient advocate? No. Have we interviewed her on Patient Power? No.

Peanut has a blood cancer – non- Hodgkin lymphoma – and she’s getting great medical care. Do you know her? If you live in South Florida you might. This is one cancer patient who is getting a lot of publicity. Is she a movie star or politician? No. Is she a well-known patient advocate? No. Have we interviewed her on Patient Power? No. She doesn’t even speak English or any language you or I would understand. Peanut is a twin female 8-year old orangutan at Jungle Island and a lot of people are following her story. There is even a Facebook group of humans with lymphoma, affectionately known as the “Lymphomaniacs” who are activity following her story and have been in touch with Peanut’s caretakers to send their good wishes. Fortunately, she is doing well.

For my money, I don’t care what puts cancer on the map, including movie stars and orangutans. Attention to the diseases we face is good. People are doing better and are becoming more informed. It comes down to getting the expert care that is right for you. Peanut is getting that. But you don’t have to be any kind of beloved person or animal to get that care. You have to be savvy.

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Earlier I wrote about my daughter’s 19-year-old friend who has a brain tumor. Now she’s leaving her home town to go to the number one rated cancer center, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, for a consultation. They may do more surgery because they have the expertise and equipment to remove more of the brain tumor than the doctors could do back home. That could make a big difference for her survival. My point is that we all can get expert care if we demand it and research where to go.

If you are “Peanut” it may come to you because thousands of people are watching. For the rest of us we have to take action ourselves. It can be lifesaving, not just for cancer but for what starts out as seemingly mundane health issues. There are many examples of “Powerful Patients” on the Patient Power website who have taken charge of their own health in partnership with their care teams. One of the newest examples is the story of Stephanie Possehl who had to push to get the best care for her back pain.

I don’t mean to make more of Peanut’s story than makes sense. But if an orangutan can get expert care, so can you!

As always, I welcome your comments and wish you and your family the best of health!

Andrew