Patient Advocate: Anthea Bull
Originally from the UK, I lived and worked in France, Germany and Switzerland before moving to the Netherlands in 2011. A year later, I was diagnosed with esthesioneuroblastoma, cancer in my olfactory nerve, and after the initial diagnosis in Utrecht, I was referred to the VUmc for further tests, then to Italy for minimally invasive surgery and back to Amsterdam for radiotherapy and follow-up. I was humbled and grateful to see so many medical professionals collaborating across cultures and borders to build the best treatment plan for me despite all the administrative obstacles.
So one reason for becoming a Patient Advocate is to ensure that all cancer patients may benefit from the least invasive surgery options and the quickest recovery times to give them the best prognosis possible. Another topic close to my heart and personal experience is the importance of psychosocial support for current and former cancer patients.
Coming to terms with changes in our bodies, our relationships or our ability to work – during and after cancer treatment – can sometimes be lonely and difficult and I believe that psychological support is just as important as the medical interventions needed to get the cancer under control. It’s one thing to treat and manage the disease. It’s another thing to find our place in the new world we encounter when we’ve lost a body part or when we know that we won’t recover from our illness. We need to make sure that psychosocial support is not only widely available at all stages of treatment but also easily accessible e.g. making counselling available at home for terminally ill patients and their families so that they don’t need to travel.
So here I am to bring in the patient experience wherever it can help to ensure that current and former cancer patients, and their families, may continue to live as happily and healthily as possible.