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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.” Read more »

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

Human Touch: Does It Belong In Medicine?

Doctor holding patient's handThe New York Times asks: “Should the doctor hold a patient’s hand” during emotional times? The comments that follow the short article are the most interesting. Most readers say this question shouldn’t even be asked and that human compassion should always win out. Touch is a human gesture of comfort and understanding.

But some readers disagree. One said she recoiled when the doctor reached out to touch her hand after telling her that her cancer had returned. It felt really creepy to her. Another asked: “What if the physician is also a Catholic priest or a pediatrician and a priest?” Whoa. It becomes more complex when you get into the psyche of the abused.

I have often thought that one of the appeals of chiropractors is that they “lay on hands” and touch and manipulate patients. With 21st century modern medicine, physicians can treat entire episodes of illness with tests, scans and robots and never actually touch the patient. No wonder people feel “dehumanized” and wonder if doctors really care. Touch and compassion are part of the entire human experience and the physician is present during a patient’s most stressful time. But wait, there’s another side. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

A New Heart And A New Mission

Mr. Ron Murray, a tranplant heart recipient, tells his story:

From the video:

“If the transplant issue ever comes up for anyone listening, that’s almost the first thing they would think, too. If I had time to think about it over that year, I would have realized ‘Oh, my God.’ I would have apprehension all built up about how I would react to…I mean is it going to change my way of thinking? Is it going to alter my own thoughts? None of that holds up, ultimately.

When I realized that there was going to be forever an emotional component, and maybe a spiritual component to this thing that I hadn’t thought about, is when I became –- God, I don’t even know if I can tell you about it –- that I began to grieve for the donor, that brought me to tears several of those nights. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Latest Interviews

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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

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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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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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