Way back in May of 2012, I pointed my blog to Amy Berman’s story in Health Affairs. She had been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in November of 2010. As a registered nurse and a health foundation executive, she knew better than most what that meant. Inflammatory breast cancer is incurable, and even with aggressive treatment, only 40% of patients live five years past diagnosis.
Berman’s oncologist wanted to be aggressive. Ms. Berman wanted quality of life – “to feel good as long as possible.” She dropped the oncologist who would have turned her body into a battlefield and her remaining time into a battle, and opted for palliative care.
This past spring, I checked on Ms. Berman and found her actively working as a Senior Program Officer at the John A. Hartford Foundation, writing articles for their Health AGEnda column, traveling, and tweeting from her Twitter account, NotesonNursing.
My interest in Ms. Berman’s approach comes from witnessing cancer in my own family. As I wrote previously, two of my relatives received poor prognoses; were nonetheless subjected to chemotherapy; were made miserable; and were gone within six months. Several years later, when I read Ms. Berman’s story, her decision just seemed so right.
Every now and then I check on Ms. Berman’s Twitter feed (check it out here, at Notes on Nursing) or her Health AGEnda column. She is still busy and active. When I last wrote about her story, she had recently spoken at the TEDMED conference on healthcare innovation in Washington DC; participated in a Twitter chat about health care leadership that reached an audience of 2 million; jet-skied to the Statue of Liberty; and participated in the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” event in New York’s Central Park. She continues to work, write, travel, and speak publicly. Just this month, she participated in a roundtable discussion on serious illness. Here she is at the roundtable (Amy is on the left, and looking great!).
Last month, she passed the six-year mark since receiving her terminal diagnosis. I hope she passes many more such anniversaries.
Merry Christmas, Amy Berman.
Living Life in My Own Way, and Dying That Way as Well (Health Affairs)