#LCSM Chat topic 11/16: Running on Empty—Advocacy and Burnout

It’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month, when lung cancer patient advocates knock themselves out sharing information and factoids about their disease.  However, you know you spend too much time as a cancer patient/advocate when …

  • You think you see a cancer ribbon on your driveway, which upon closer inspection is actually a drowned earthworm.
  • Most of your travel revolves around cancer.
  • You lecture strangers on the street about lung cancer stigma.
  • You know enough people who have died to easily post one per day for a month.

As research develops more effective cancer treatments , the number of cancer patient advocates and survivors (including those living with metastatic cancer) is growing.  Some of us have been at it for years.  We feel an urgency to promote awareness, educate patients and carers about treatments, share our experiences, and obtain more research funding so we can help save lives of current and future patients, and perhaps even our own.  We can’t stop, because we don’t want to see cancer claim another life and devastate another family.

And yet, there is a limit to our energies and abilities. We advocates are human, and in some cases humans in active grieving or cancer treatment.  Much as we would like to be superhuman, cancer patient advocates can’t do everything.

Sometimes we become overwhelmed (or even depressed) by the magnitude of the task ahead of us, by our seeming inability to accelerate research or save every cancer patient we encounter. Sometimes we must fend off anger directed at us by those in pain, while still maintaining compassion. Sometimes our health suffers from the stress and long hours.  Sometimes we wonder whether we’re truly enjoying our limited time on earth. Sometimes all this make us less effective as advocates–it’s hard to give good energy to others when your own cup is empty.

Sometimes we just need to take a break from cancer patient advocacy to recharge.

On November 16, 2017, at 8 PM New York Time (5 PM Seattle time), our #LCSM community will explore this issue in an hour-long chat titled “Running on Empty—Advocacy and Burnout.”  Moderator Janet Freeman-Daily (@JFreemanDaily) will lead our discussion using the following questions:

  • T1: What do you do as a cancer patient advocate, and how long have you been doing it? (Note: a cancer patient advocate can be anyone who advocates for cancer patients).
  • T2: What events or situations in your advocacy work have caused you the most stress and/or distress? How do you cope with them in real time?
  • T3: Have you ever considered quitting your advocacy work? If you continued your patient advocacy work after that point, what persuaded you to continue?
  • T4: What steps have you taken to help you recharge your advocacy energies? If you take took a break from advocacy, how long was the break and what did you do during the break?
  • T5: Based on your experiences as a cancer patient advocate, what advice would you offer to those who are considering becoming cancer patient advocates to ease their way?

This is the first chat in which tweets can be 280 characters–make good use of them!  Please remember to include #LCSM in ALL your tweets so the other chat participants can see them. You can read a primer on participating in the chat here. Hope you’ll join us!

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