“ Educate yourself! You will be your own best advocate.
Stephen Gudas is a one of the pioneers of Oncology Physical Therapy and a distinguished mAss Kicker. He is currently a professor of anatomy at Virginia Commonwealth University and serves a secondary appointment in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. He is the namesake of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Oncology Section: Steve Gudas Award For Outstanding Publication in Rehabilitation Oncology. The award was established by the APTA Oncology section to recognize those persons whose written publication in the Section’s Journal, Rehabilitation Oncology, has resulted in advancement of the practice of oncology physical therapy. Dr. Gudas was so kind to answer a few questions for mAss Kickers Foundation about the role of physical rehabilitation in tumor/ cancer survivorship. There are many similarities between physical therapy and tumor/cancer “thrivership”. The ultimate goal of both disciplines is the return of function of an individual into society through physical activity. Here are a few questions we asked Dr. Gudas.
mK: What is the role of physical therapy in tumor/cancer survivorship?
SG: Promoting both exercise and healthy living. I had lost several close relatives to cancer in the late 1960’s. In 1973 I started working with cancer survivors. The disease fascinated me. Also, I saw syndromes that occurred only in cancer patients and I saw early on that this was an area to explore and study.
mK: How did you get involved in the APTA Oncology section?
SG: I am a founding, charter member of the APTA Oncology section. In the beginning, it was a special interest group of the APTA. Jeri Walton was our founder, from Indiana. Charles McGarvey, Maggie Rinehart Ayres were early players who are still active in the section and its objectives.
mK: When was the APTA Oncology Section formed?
SG: In 1982 we started as a Special Interest group of the American Physical Therapy Association. We became a section in 1983 when we were approved by the APTA House of Delegates.
mK: What does the APTA Oncology Section do? What is the ultimate goal of the section?
SG: The mission of the APTA Oncology section is to promote and support ethical, evidence based physical therapy practice to improve physical function and quality of life for patients and clients affected by cancer and HIV through education, research, and public service.
The goal of the APTA Oncology Section is to create a forum for persons whose skills and knowledge concerning oncology physical therapy can be enhanced for mutual benefit to society and the profession of physical therapy through:
The APTA Oncology Section will:
mK: Who were your personal mentors?
SG:, My teachers served as excellent role models. Especially:
Jane Carlin: an excellent teacher of applied anatomy, was an inspiration early in my career.
Susan Mellette, MD: She is the one of the founders and early pioneer in cancer rehabilitation.
Walter Lawrence, MD: Beloved founder of the field of Surgical Oncology and here at MCV
mK: How can patients become active participants in their own “thrivership”
SG: Patients need to motivate themselves first. PTs can help them set personal goals by specializing exercises to mimick their desired activities.
mK: What motivates you?
SG: Quite simply, I am motivated by life and peoples’ response to challenging events.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
SG: I laugh at myself. So many things make me cry. Half time at football games, parades, children, love bravely expressed. I am totally emotional. People’s follies make me angry, nothing specific here.
mK: What is the toughest challenge survivors face?
SG: The fear of recurrence.
mK: What do you like to do in your spare time?
SG: I play the piano in my spare time. I also like to work in my yard.
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
SG: Live every day! We see marvelous displays of courage and strength in our patients, and it sustains and supports us with our work.
mK: How can they become participants in their own “thrivership”?
SG: Educate yourself! You will be your own best advocate.
mK: We agree, but there is a lot of information out there. Any parting words for people fighting tumors/cancer?
You will be your best advocate. First, run your findings by a doctor or nurse. Find out their opinion on those issues and see if you can contact someone who has actually done it! Message boards are great and other survivors are a wealth of information. Be wary of false claims. These are important life decisions. Do your homework to familiarize yourself with the issues, but don’t trust everything you read on the internet… social workers can point you in the right direction. Always consult a medical professional before making any major decisions regarding your health.
Thanks to Dr. Gudas for answering our questions! Physical rehabilitation plays a very large role in “tumor/cancer thrivership”. More studies are coming out advocating physical activity after tumor/cancer treatment. We think physical therapy can address important benefits of physical activity in long term survivorship!