Paige Turners highlights technology innovators, medical trailblazers, and business visionaries making an impact in the digital pathology, artificial intelligence, and cancer care space.
In this edition, we spoke with Richard Scheffer, prostate cancer survivor and patient advocate.
Richard Scheffer is a retired physician with over 40 years of medical care experience. During that time, he had the pleasure of meeting Dame Cicely Saunders who was instrumental in starting the first modern hospice, and who inspired his passion for caring for patients at the end of life. This set the stage for Richard becoming a hospice medical director for 20 years, and though he has since retired, his passion for supporting patients has continued. In fact, it was brought all the more sharply into focus when Richard himself became a patient.
5 years ago, Richard was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Like most, his initial reaction was one of shock and panic. But he was fortunate to work with a hands-on care team that walked him through each step of the process, which he recommends to all patients. “Doing the research to understand what options are available and talking with medical care teams about the various treatments, potential side effects, and potential outcomes,” he says, “makes the experience feel much more manageable.”
As does, he elaborates, knowing about the technology being employed throughout the care process. He advises that asking questions about the technologies in use and being involved in selecting them can make a difference, as modern technologies do have the potential to impact patient care. “We’re incredibly fortunate that we live in a day in age where new technologies are increasingly available, and for me the important part of any technology is how it is going to make a difference to the prognosis and the quality of life that one experiences after a treatment.”
Richard’s interest in how technology can impact patients, meshed with his motivation to share insights from his own experience, is actually what brought him to becoming a patient advocate with Prostate Cancer UK and participating in the ARTICULATE PRO project. Funded by the Accelerative Access Collaborative and NHSx, the study aims to investigate how prostate cancer AI technologies might impact the diagnostic process for both pathologists and patients. Importantly, it gives him a chance to offer his experience from both sides of the care spectrum to not only influence the direction of the research, but to hopefully make diagnosis and care better for all.
For physicians, he says, it is important to remember to always keep the patient perspective at the fore. “One of the things that really struck me when I was diagnosed with cancer is that I don’t think I had really at any stage in my career grasped the complexity and the depth and the breadth of the emotion that comes with a diagnosis. So, listening to what the patient is saying and taking that into account and responding to that – and understanding that there might be a different way of looking at things from the patient perspective – is terribly important.”
For patients, he reminds us that in addition to doing your research and taking an active role in your care, it is important to remember to just take it on a day-by-day basis. “Don’t try to live the whole experience in one go. When you start to panic, remember ‘ok, I don’t have to deal with all of that now, I will handle it when it comes.’” Of course, he adds, it is also extremely helpful to lean on your support system, but don’t forget that they are going through this challenge as well. We’re all in it together!
Happily, Richard has made it through the other side of his diagnosis and is enjoying his health every day. His takeaway from being diagnosed with prostate cancer, he says, was to stop and smell the roses more and take time to enjoy every day. He hopes to continue to use his platform as a former physician as well as his work with Prostate Cancer UK to advocate for patients and to encourage the adoption of new technologies such as Paige Prostate, with the aim of improving the patient experience for years to come.