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Life Disruption Caused By Cancer During The Holiday Season

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? —Every, every minute?”

-Thornton Wilder

His cancer was growing and his symptoms were progressing alarmingly. As holiday music played in the background, I searched the calendar to see how rapidly his surgery could be scheduled. The young man and his wife first looked relieved when we found a surgical opening in the coming week, but their faces fell as they realized that he would spend December 25th in the hospital. Family plans were to be put on hold that year. The future was uncertain.

It has always seemed to me that ”cancer” causes more life disruption during this time of year. The quickened pace of life and the family expectations, particularly when small children are involved, push people to their limits.

On the other hand, Read more »

Patients: Confused Tourists In The World Of Health Care

Being diagnosed with a serious illness is like being drop-kicked into a foreign country: you don’t know the language, you don’t understand the culture, you don’t have a map and you desperately want to find your way home.”

Eric Parker @ flickr.com

I wrote that following a cancer-related diagnosis six years ago that resulted in removal of a part of my colon. One year ago this week I was in the hospital longing for home while recovering from surgery for stomach cancer. Today I am traveling in Spain (feeling fine and minus the drop-kicked part) and am reminded of this analogy every day.

For example, I couldn’t figure out how to punch my ticket on the city bus. The driver told me in Spanish that I barely comprehend to turn the ticket over. No luck. His voice rose: “You put it in upside down.” Again, no luck. He shouted: “Use the other damn machine!”

Stupid tourist.

There’s a man who sits at the front desk at the clinic where I get most of my cancer care. He greets every person who walks past his desk as though Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Individualizing “The Fight Against Cancer”

You have heard it countless times, “The War on Cancer.” President Nixon announced it. The National Cancer Institute has spearheaded what TV and radio commercials always talk about as “the fight against cancer.” Singular. But we really need to start thinking about it as a plural.  Wars on cancer. Fights against cancer. Taking it one step further, we need to see each person’s fight as an individual battle.  Not just individualized to the patient’s spirit or age or sense of hope, but individualized to his or her particular biology, matched up with the specific cancer and available treatments. That is the nature of “personalized medicine” applied to cancer. We’ve been talking about it for a few years around here, but what’s exciting now is that even more super smart people in the cancer scientific community are devoting themselves to it.

I met two people like that today near the research labs at the University of Washington in Seattle. Without giving too much away (they’ve got big plans), these two hematologist-oncologists, with many advanced degrees between them and decades of experience, are trying to build something really big that could lengthen lives and save many too.

What they’re trying to do is Read more »

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

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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