I was raised in a family dedicated to healthcare and service. My father is a physician and my mother and grandmother were nurses and my grandfather a fireman/EMT. Throughout my early years, I spent much time at my father’s urology practice office where he frequently was treating people diagnosed with prostate, bladder, and kidney cancers. It was during those formative years in conversations with my father that I realized the mind-body connection and the importance of treating the whole person and whole family – not just the disease. My father openly discussed his emotional struggles with how to support a family facing cancer while focusing his attentions on providing high quality medical care.
In a small midwestern town there were not many options for cancer support and education programs. It was an “a-ha moment” in an undergraduate Health Psychology class that illuminated the path toward my eventual career. I realized that there are positions in the medical field for examining and treating people holistically. Therefore, I sought out a Psychology Doctoral program with emphasis in Clinical Health Psychology. During those training years, I had opportunities to work populations with head injuries, chronic pain, military veterans, chronic and persistent mental illnesses, substance abuse, psychiatric crises, internal medicine, geriatric conditions, personality disorders, and cancer. Without a doubt the work as a psychologist with people facing cancer, cancer risk, and/or grief/loss was the most profoundly rewarding and allowed me to work with a large cross section of ages, ethnicities, stations and stages in life, and readiness for making life changes.
Following graduate school, I completed a Post-Doc Fellowship at the University of Colorado Hospital in the Blood and Marrow Transplant program and continued as an Assistant Professor faculty member for nearly 5 years. During those years, I learned a great deal about the healthcare system, oncology, medicine, and how individuals and families face acute and chronic medical conditions. I was awed and inspired by the resilience and strengths of survivors, their families/loved ones, and the heroic healthcare providers. In 2010 I was offered a position to grow a Psychosocial Oncology Department at Saint Joseph Hospital Cancer Center in Denver. It was chance of a lifetime to apply clinical work, as well as to learn management, program development and to expand research opportunities. Most recently, I have fulfilled a lifelong dream of building a private psychotherapy practice dedicated to evidence-based psychotherapy options for adults and families facing cancer as well as other chronic or life-limiting illnesses.
Overarchingly, cancer means a new moniker or new way to identify one’s self. Unlike many things in our lives, a cancer survivor is not something someone chooses to be. We can choose our career paths, whether or not to be parents, whether or not to be partnered/married, what hobbies and passions we have, etc; but no one chooses to have cancer. Nonetheless, the experience and the diagnosis become an aspect of one’s identity.
Working with cancer survivors influences me every day! I don’t sweat the small stuff. I realize that life is full of unexpected curve balls so I celebrate the little and the big things when they go right. I do my best to manage my stress in healthful ways in order to try to keep some sense of peace in the midst of life’s chaos. And I am passionate about the importance of healthcare for everyone.
Jana Bolduan Lomax, PsyD
Clinical Health Psychologist and Founder of Shift Healing, LLC
This story was originally published by One Thousand Design as part of our collaboration to produce The Last Clean Scan – a documentary film about the complexities of life after cancer. If you or someone you know has been impacted by cancer please consider contributing to the project kickstarter campaign now through December 6.