Featured MassKicker

Elizabeth Sherwood

Let your doctors or care providers know about things that are important to you or that make a difference in your life… hearing from you can help inform practice!!!

Liz Sherwood is another focused mAss Kicker who is a leader in the Young Adult Survivor movement!  We met Liz at a conference in Las Vegas this past spring.  She was a panelist in a session on how to forge partnerships with cancer centers. She has her Masters of Science degree as an Adult Nurse Practioner and is the Coordinator for Survivorship and Integrative Medicine at the University of North Carolina.   We we fortunate to reconnect with her and ask her a few questions.

mK:  Thanks for doing this Liz!  What is your relationship to tumors/cancer:
ES:  I have worked as an advanced practice nurse in oncology for the past 15 years.  I was challenged early in my career in oncology by a young woman who  let me know that a whole lot more needed to happen for young adults to address the entire scope of “cancer” and cancer treatment. “You guys do a good job treating cancer, but you really suck at taking care of us between recurrences and after treatment!  You need to do something about that!”  That served as a spring board for me personally and professionally

mK:  Survivors need help becoming “thrivers” after treatment. What is the role of research in life after a tumor / cancer diagnosis?
ES: Research helps to inform both clinical practice and new ways of addressing a formidable opponent –cancer.  I have worked on research projects involving getting folks to think about moving towards wellness after treatment including thinking about the food they eat, moving their bodies and stress and coping.  Helping one to think about being “proactive” in dealing with the uncertainty and the challenges of treatment and life during active treatment and after.  I also have worked with research projects across several institutions looking at survivorship visits and treatment summaries and care plans.  I also work with projects that are “train the trainer” approaches to working with health care professionals in community to understand the patient’s experience of cancer and help with wellness behaviors and addressing concerns of uncertainty, anxiety and depression.

mK: People really have to participate in research studies in order for changes to happen! What motivates you?
ES:  Knowing that life is an on-going process and that we all have steps to take to achieve a greater sense of well-being.  Trying to live fully knowing that we do not have any predictor what tomorrow may bring.  The fantastic people that teach me each day more about life-the people I work with at UNC.

mK: Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
ESKatherine Wilson –she was the young woman I mentioned who challenged me to attend to the needs of young adults.  She was treated for lung cancer at age 23.  One of my favorite quotes of hers-“I’ve learned and am still learning how to live today without looking too far ahead, to make the best of whatever is going on, to find something good in even the worst days”

Another hero is Amber Vance.  I admire her in so many ways but mostly her amazing energy to reach out, give back and to constantly keep me energized! She too challenges me to get medical folks to keep open to the needs of AYA populations and working to fill the holes.

mK: Cool.  Let’s get to know you better.  What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
ES:  Friends and loved ones help me to laugh, love and of course sometimes cry.  I do love a good belly laugh and yes, I am someone who cries easily. I get frustrated with the challenges of making some very common sense things happen in our current way of providing medical care.

mK:  What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
ES:  Volunteering for First Descents.  I am also a certified Rosen Method practitioner which is a type of bodywork and the training is really quite fascinating.

mK:  Based on what you’ve observed, what is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
ES:  Figuring out how best to live with the uncertainty that a cancer diagnosis brings. Living fully with ones mortality on the plate of daily life.

mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
ES:  Mexico….and I love good food.

mK: Hee hee… Random question time… If you were a superhero… what would your name be?
ES:  Well, my “First Descent’s name” is Zil…and they help me to get into superhero mode…My super power would be giving people a sense of living that is like going down a rapid with a sense of wonder-sometimes you do it great and you are in the zone and sometimes you are upside down…but WOW,  you’re living it!

mK:  Super “Zil“? Liz spelled backwards?  What are you up to now?
ES:  I just finished another class series for folks who have completed treatment helping them to become more informed about the power of good food, physical movement and exercise and attending to your stress.  I am actually getting ready to take a sabbatical and look forward to next chapters!

mK: Great!  Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
ES: Life is at times really, really intense.  Surrounding yourself with people that love you and that you love, taking the time to appreciate those things-little and big-that bring you joy and breathing fully can be helpful.  Find the support that resonates with you and know that while you may feel really alone and really terrified, others that have been there before may have some wisdom to lend.

mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
ES: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and figure the love of good food started there!

mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
ES: Let your doctors or care providers know about things that are important to you or that make a difference in your life (for example about mAss Kickers or other programs)…hearing from you can help inform practice!!!

Liz Sherwood: jambalaya and gumbo connoisseur, enthusiastic young adult survivor advocate, Mexican food savant, Rosen Method practitioner, driven research advocate, and cool researcher!  Check out the University of North Carolina, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Support services and programs for survivors. Thanks for answering our questions Liz!  We can’t wait to see what is next up for you!

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