Survivorship care after colon cancer: Marlea's story

Marlea Brown, a colorectal cancer patient at Jamestown Medical Oncology, paints a picture of a flower

Roswell Park's Jamestown location makes cancer treatment and recovery easier for patients in New York's Southern Tier.

Marlea Brown is a colon cancer survivor. It’s a new role for the active, 79-year-old retired high school teacher living in Clymer, NY, and one that has elevated her appreciation for the value of family, community and medical support systems. Last year, while wintering in Florida, she was diagnosed with colon cancer and decided to come back to Buffalo to be treated at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

“After my surgery, my doctors recommended I continue with chemotherapy and medical care in Jamestown because it's closer to my home and more convenient for me. I've had some setbacks, but now that I’ve finished chemo, I'm feeling better and am so appreciative of how many people have made my cancer journey less difficult,” she says.

Roswell Park’s Care Network location, Jamestown Hematology and Oncology, brings the cancer care and experts of Roswell Park to New York’s Southern Tier. For patients like Marlea who live almost two hours from Roswell Park’s main campus in Buffalo, NY, the Jamestown location provides the full range of services, much closer to home. 

But a more convenient location for cancer treatment is just one of the benefits. Easing the recovery for patients and survivors for years to come is an important part of cancer care.

Survivorship care addresses health after cancer

“There are a lot of physical and emotional side effects to deal with after surgery, chemotherapy and medication,” says Mary Reid, PhD, Chief of Cancer Screening, Survivorship and Mentorship at Roswell Park. “It’s our mission to provide a backbone of support to help cancer survivors find their way to a happier state of life and a new normal. Survivorship care is so important, especially after the warm arms of oncology are no longer wrapped around patients who have completed their medical treatments but are still dealing with issues like neuropathy, fatigue, nausea and more.” 

Roswell Park’s Survivorship Program supports patients with services, resources and workshops that provide ongoing education, rehabilitative therapies and lifestyle strategies. “Having cancer and going through treatment is hard enough,” says Dr. Reid. “Survivors need to manage treatments, exams and follow-up screenings. We’re here to help them with life after cancer services, including medical and preventative care, pain management, rehabilitation therapy, nutritional and sexual health counseling and referrals to specialists, support groups and community resources.” 

Roswell Park in your neighborhood

Jamestown Medical Oncology and Hematology, located at 21 Porter Avenue, Jamestown, NY, provides expert cancer care including chemotherapy infusions, specialized cancer therapies and access to clinical trials, to patients in Jamestown, Chautauqua and other counties in New York’s Southern Tier.

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Resources and services offer support and community

“There’s a growing number of cancer survivors who struggle with feeling alone through their cancer journey,” says Susan Gustafson, PA-C, who works at the Jamestown practice on Porter Avenue. “Bringing people together and offering support, educational resources and workshops brings survivors a range of helpful emotional and mental health benefits.” Roswell Park’s survivorship workshops are available to all cancer survivors, not just Roswell Park patients. 

“There’s a strong sense of belonging that develops during our workshops,” says Gustafson. “Being together with other cancer survivors in the community helps people remember that they’re not alone. It restores a sense of belonging, something that cancer survivors tell us is a daily struggle.” 

Workshop speakers and topics include coping tips, nutrition tips, support groups, physical therapy and more. “The events are filled with information, resources and strategies that are specific to cancer survivors, and our events continue to fill as word spreads around the community.” 

For Marlea, ongoing support has been truly impactful. When a close friend, also a cancer survivor, recommended an upcoming survivorship workshop at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel, Marlea decided to join. “It was educational and inspirational. Other than my friend, I didn't know anyone else at the event but I knew everyone was a cancer patient or survivor and I took comfort in that support system. It was like being part of a giant hug.” 

A roadmap to a healthier future

Providing a roadmap for a healthier future can also reduce anxiety, says Dr. Reid, who notes that 20% of cancers are diagnosed in people who have already had cancer. “For those whose life has been threatened more than once, we need to provide tools and tips to heal mind, body and spirit during a time when patients are feeling especially vulnerable and fearful.” 

“Cancer is scary and stressful,” says Marlea. “As I've told friends and family, it's a journey and if you're on a journey, you need a map. These workshops are part of my road map. Along with friends and family, it’s been an important part of my support, one more piece of the puzzle. It’s still scary and stressful but knowing I'm not alone and meeting other people who are going through the same things that I’ve gone through lightens my load.” 

Marlea recalls a recent survivorship workshop where the keynote speaker talked about the importance of having a toolbox. “I think it’s a great analogy, knowing that I might not need everything in that box, but all the tools are there if and when I need them,” she says. “I’ve learned through this journey with cancer that it’s hard for me to ask for help even though I have friends, family and church members asking what they can do for me. Having the support of my Roswell Park team and knowing they are there and ready to hand me the tools when I need them is reassuring.” 

Why choose Roswell Park for colorectal cancer care?

We treat all of you — not just your cancer. From treatment through survivorship services, we are here for you.

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Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.