Turning Adversity into Proactive Survivorship

upsetwomanIt’s been a tough week. From the initial blow, I’ve been a poster child for Kubler Ross’s five stages of grief. At this point I’m probably mid-way between depression and acceptance.

If you are a subscriber to my patient empowerment newsletter (not our APHA Monday Mail, rather, my Every Patient’s Advocate one) – then you have already heard my news – I sent out a heads up last Thursday just before my About.com newsletter went out. (If you aren’t a subscriber, why not? 😉 Here’s a link. )

The news is that after almost 7 years and 2000+ articles, out of the blue, with no warning, I was terminated from About.com. The only reason given was that it was a “business decision.” I’ve had my say on that at my personal blog. You can find details here if you’re curious.

To say I was stunned is a major understatement. Shocked, upset, angry, frustrated – that’s a start. It’s a blow to my ego, a hit to my income, and a blindside to those people for whom I have written, and provided advice and resources for all these years. The feelings have been very similar to those I felt when I was diagnosed with cancer.

Ironically, it happened on June 30 which was 10 years to the day my cancer misdiagnosis journey began – the journey that set me on the path to patient empowerment, later advocacy, working and interfacing with all of you.

That journey has made me a proactive survivor.

What? You’ve never heard of a proactive survivor?

I’ve defined proactive survivorship as the sixth stage of grief. It’s the idea that dealing with adversity takes one through the grief process, but getting PAST that tragedy requires one more step. It’s a step beyond acceptance. It’s a choice, and an opportunity to change one’s story from victimhood to hero.

Victims let adversity define them.
Proactive survivors redefine their adversity.

So why am I sharing this with you today? What does this have to do with the business of health and patient advocacy?


First, many of you who are advocates, or hope to become one, do so because you, too, suffered a tragedy. You’ve lost a loved one to a medical error, or you watched in horror as a loved one didn’t get the treatment he or she needed, or in the way it was needed. Maybe someone you cared about went bankrupt from medical debt, or couldn’t get permission to get the treatment he or she needed. You, the victim or victim’s loved one will be a proactive survivor once you are helping others.

Some of you have watched tragedies take place. Maybe you didn’t suffer one yourself, but as a nurse, or doctor, you observed families that fell apart with grief. Now you are taking your experience and observations to make sure those horrors can be avoided by the next patient or caregiver.

I could go on – but you get my drift. We all suffer adversities in our lives. It’s what we do with them which helps us move on – and if we help someone else as a result, it is incredibly gratifying and useful. A very different result. Very positive and proactive.thumbup

As you work with your clients, as you hear them tell their stories and describe their difficulties, help them change their stories, too. Don’t let them become victims defined by their adversity, no matter how small or large their challenges. Share with them the concept of proactive survivorship and help set them on a new path to overcome that adversity – to redefine it in their own way.

Now – I’m not suggesting for a minute that being bounced from About.com was in any way comparable to the adversity one can suffer at the hands of the healthcare system – not at all. But the concept of picking oneself up, moving on, and helping others prevent problems applies, in degrees, to all forms of adversity. I’ve learned a valuable lesson about working with About.com. I’ve redefined THAT victimhood in order to help its current experts, and maybe future ones, too.

If you’d like to better understand what proactive survivorship is, you can find more about it here.

I’d love to hear some examples of ways you have experienced proactive survivorship in your own life or someone else’s. Do you have a story to share? Please add it to the comments below.

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Share your experience or join the conversation!


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3 thoughts on “Turning Adversity into Proactive Survivorship”

  1. I’m sorry to hear of your situation, Trisha, and know you’ll be sorely missed by your About.com readers. I was also devastated when fired from a healthcare position. The reason (ultimately) was because I had a voice for professionals and patients alike. As traumatic as it was, it’s catapulted me into other areas I would (probably) never have considered. Better yet, it hasn’t silenced me! I’m certain it will be similar for you because of your passion for advocacy. Best to you!

  2. I am very sorry for you. In the long run, this results in a big loss for About.com.
    I’m also sorry, but not surprised that my earlier comment was deleted, About.com $^@*$.

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