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Globe reporters answer cancer questions

Globe and Mail Update

For the past month, The Globe and Mail has reported on cancer from every angle: the hopes and fears of patients and their families, the battles waged by doctors and researchers, and the political struggles over cancer funding and treatment.

Erin Anderssen began the series by profiling a day in the life of 60 people with cancer. In 'I made noise, and things moved,' she writes about the new world of cancer, in which patients must take charge of their own destinies -- "To get the best care, patient advocates say, it's not enough to wait passively in an appointment room. You have to go out and get it."

Globe features writer Margaret Philp knows first-hand just how true that is. Ms. Philp writes in Cancer in the mind's eye about her personal story of being diagnosed with breast cancer, and how her battle to stay alive led her to take control of her own health. Along the way, she discovered a growing body of evidence that psychology and spirituality can help the body heal in amazing ways.

Ms. Philp and Ms. Andersen joined us Monday at 12:30 p.m. EST to answer reader questions. Your questions and Ms. Philp and Ms. Anderssen's answers appear at the bottom of the page.

Erin Anderssen has been working for the Globe and Mail since 1997, when she joined the parliamentary bureau. Erin has covered politics, crime and social trends, and now writes features for the newspaper. She has won three National Newspaper Awards, and co-wrote New Canada, a book based on a Globe and Mail special project. A displaced Nova Scotian, she lives in Ottawa with her husband and two boys, and a wooden boat crowded into the garage.

Margaret Philp has worked for The Globe and Mail since 1988, when she joined the Report on Business as a business reporter. She has won a National Newspaper Award for feature writing and an Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy Journalism. She now works as a feature writer for The Globe. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in March, 2005, Margaret has taken a special interest in cancer, its environmental causes, lack of prevention, and the human toll. She lives in Toronto with her husband and four children.

Editor's Note: editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Rebecca Dube, Welcome to Ms. Philp and Ms. Anderssen, and thanks for joining us today. I wonder if you could start off by talking a bit about what you've both learned about cancer -- Ms. Anderssen from writing all these stories, and Ms. Philp from both personal and professional experience. Erin, what did you learn in the course of your research that surprised you most; and Margaret, what do you know now that you wish you'd known back when you were first diagnosed with cancer?

Margaret Philp: For me, the issue is not that I wish I'd known when I was diagnosed, but that I wish I knew long before I was diagnosed and what I now know. In other words, I think that stress in my life played a role in the development of my cancer. I don't mean that it caused my cancer necessarily. But I think my disease was aided and abetted by stress that in many instances was self-imposed. With four kids and a full-time job, I was running around from one responsibility to another, never spending a minute on personal time for myself. I remember wanting to do yoga, but telling people I was too busy. I told myself that was okay, that it was a stage in my life that would pass when the children were older. It never occurred to me then that perhaps I wouldn't be here when the children got older -- that my life is now and not when the children get older.

I now believe that this time we take for ourselves for peace or spiritual reflection are important to body and soul. I no longer discount these things as flaky or the domain of people with too much time on their hands. As a society, I think we have to slow down. As individuals, I think it is incumbent on us to take the time to live our lives at a walking pace, not running. I believe our physical health is at stake, and there's a growing body of science to suggest it is.

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