Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Cancer Survivorship And Fear

I had breakfast this morning in Las Vegas with my friend, Dave Garcia. Dave is a pit boss on the graveyard shift at the Belagio Hotel where they made the modern-day “Ocean’s 11″ buddy movie from 1960. Dave is also a 52-year-old chronic lymphocytic leukemia survivor. He reached out to me online and we have been friends since soon after his diagnosis in 2002.

Dave is a father of two young kids. He dreams of seeing them grow up. But, understandably, he worries. Some days more than others. Today was his day to see his oncologist and get the latest blood test results. Would his white blood count (WBC) be in the normal range? If so, his third round of treatment was still working. If not, he might be headed to a stem cell transplant, short-term disability, and living in another city for weeks or months.

As  you can imagine, Dave was on pins and needles today. He would be against more chemo because he worries about the toxic drugs killing cancer cells but weakening him in the long run. Dave admits his blood pressure goes up on these days.

Dave is not alone in his fear. For millions of cancer survivors, while each day is special, some days are anxiety producing. For me it’s when I have a strange ache or pain. I rarely tell Esther, but I worry. For almost everyone it’s on days when we are having a “checkup.” The worry is, is this the day another shoe will drop? Fortunately, that hasn’t come for me yet and I hope it never will. I am happy to say Dave just texted me. His worry today was unfounded. The WBC was normal. He was given a pass at least for a few more months. We hope forever!

At another meeting today in Las Vegas there was a discussion about information for cancer patients. Nurses ticking off all sorts of facts and admonishments to patients. The nurses feel they are doing their job of education quite well. Some patients would say maybe not so well. How come? Fear. For us it is not clinical routine. It is our lives on the line at diagnosis or at a checkup. We often don’t hear so well in those moments. Dave may not have heard so well today. Only one word counted: “Normal.”

A lot is said by clinical folks about patients not taking their medicines correctly. That will be especially critical as more cancer medicines become oral rather than infused. My advice to the communicators and educators is to acknowledge a patient/survivor’s fear. By understanding how treatment days, the diagnosis by itself, and checkups make us anxious you can understand a lot and communication can be more effective.

Congratulations to my friend Dave on a positive doctor visit. I look forward to rolling the dice with you for many years to come and the dice always coming up 7′s!

Wishing you and your family the best of health,

Andrew

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »