Aspen cancer survivor pays it forward at symposium
November 11, 2011
ASPEN – When David Miller of Aspen joins a panel of international experts for the first-ever Mantle Cell Lymphoma Symposium Friday, his intent is clear: “I want people to learn how to become an exceptional patient,” said Miller, a nine-year MCL survivor and longtime Aspen resident. “Not just a good patient but an exceptional patient.”
Miller’s talk, titled “Perspectives from an Expert Patient and Long-Term Survivor,” is one of several being presented at the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. The impetus for the symposium, according to its organizers, is to update patients, caregivers, oncologists and other health care providers on the most recent advances in treatment and research. For Miller, the gathering goes deeper than that: “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being an enabled and informed patient,” said Miller, who is married with two school-age daughters. “You are your most important advocate and information is a critical part of being a survivor.”
Toward that end, Miller helped found the Facebook group “Our MCL Family.” And though he is now almost a decade removed from his diagnosis of MCL – a rare B-cell blood cancer, which is one of the most challenging non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas to treat – the disease remains a large part of his life.
“My doctor will tell people, ‘David is cured.’ That’s a compliment, but this disease is not curable,” said Miller. “Attitude is everything. You have to be fully bought in with two feet, with your team, to get results.
“You really have to drive the bus.”
In his case, Miller said “serendipity” also played a major role in his positive outcome.
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“There is no one thing that made the difference. It was a combination of many things,” he said. “But the Aspen community’s love and support really had an amazing impact on me and my family.”
In fact, Miller said that speaking at an event like Friday’s MCL Symposium is his way of giving back.
“We will never be able to repay all that we received,” he said. “But maybe something like this, being able to share my story, is a way to pay it forward.”