A Guide for Those Touched by Cancer

Published in Hopkins Medicine - Spring/Summer 2022

Mike Armstrong’s cancer with Hope (Johns Hopkins University Press) presents a compelling vision of personal resilience in the face of a life-changing diagnosis. Co-written with Eric A. Vohr, the book blends Armstrong’s personal account of his own journey following two different cancer diagnoses and associated treatments with narratives from others whose lives have been touched by the disease.

The book’s foreword is written by Theodore DeWeese, Johns Hopkins professor of radiation oncology and molecular radiation sciences (and interim Dean/CEO as of July 1), who led the Johns Hopkins team that provided treatment for Armstrong’s prostate cancer.

After a distinguished career as a CEO at Comcast, AT&T and Hughes Electric, Armstrong’s service and philanthropy have shaped the trajectory of Johns Hopkins Medicine, most notably with a $10 million gift to establish the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality — an initiative inspired by Armstrong’s own experience with a medical error that nearly cost him his life.

Armstrong, retired chairman of Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Hospital Board of Trustees, also provided funding for the Anne and Mike Armstrong Medical Education Building. In addition, his philanthropy is making Cancer with Hope a go-to guide for those whose lives are touched by the disease, as a growing number of cancer treatment centers (including the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center) now provide copies of the book donated by the author to patients and caregivers.

In the Q&A that follows, Armstrong talks about his inspiration for writing Cancer with Hope.

What do readers gain from the stories of survivors — as well as those involved in cancer treatment and recovery?

Cancer touches people from every background imaginable. And while we often don’t share common personal histories and experiences, it’s remarkable how much we have in common in regard to cancer. That is what really inspired me to write this book. I wanted to expand on those commonalities and share what I and others have learned from our interactions with this terrible disease.

Cancer’s immense physical toll requires persistence. How do we persevere in hope despite personal agony?

Many struggle to find hope in the face of cancer. Cancer is unpredictable and random, and no matter what we do, there are no guarantees that we will survive. It is such a devastating intrusion into our lives, so it’s understandable that some lose the path to hope. The intent of my book is only to help people find that path. Hope can be hard to come by when facing cancer, but it’s a valuable tool.

How did your own desire for authoritative information after your first cancer diagnosis inform the array of trusted websites, useful questions, glossary and treatment centers you offer in Cancer with Hope?

When I first thought about writing a book on cancer, I wanted to tell my personal story. However, as the book evolved and I did more research, I broadened the scope of that lens. Through this process, I also connected with some of America’s top oncologists and researchers — many of them working at Johns Hopkins. So, in addition to telling stories about hope, I wanted to also provide useful resources to enable my readers to find their path to hope.

Cultivating hope also spurs your own philanthropy. How is hope allied with tangible solidarity and giving?

In my book, I talk a lot about purpose. For me, purpose meant having something to strive for outside of my personal comfort zone. Cancer helped me widen my experience and my awareness. I think it has the potential to do that for many people, especially since it forces us to consider our own death, which is an expansive concept. I found purpose in giving back to the world, and this really helped me manage all that I was going through. It put my focus on something positive.