Few words cause greater alarm than when one hears, “You have cancer,” from their doctor. And it is with a heavy heart that a caring, compassionate physician discusses the diagnosis and treatment of an individual’s cancer. Our knowledge of this relentless disease has expanded exponentially but we have lost something along the way. The science has grown to understand the inner workings of the human body, but the art of delivering quality care has been lost in the plethora of exams, tests, surgeries, medicines, and endless worry.
From the initial symptom to facing the reality for the first time the path to wellness is stressful, trying, and confusing. As a surgical oncologist I encounter many people at different points in their journey with cancer. From the patient who presents with a growing painless mass and no suspicion of the daemon reeking havoc on their body to the person who has been battling their cancer for years, on and off treatments in a perpetual chess match with the disease.
Cancer is not an individual problem. It affects the patient’s entire family, social, and work life. The tests seem endless and the treatments are often lengthy requiring more than the individual affected to make sacrifices to make it all happen. What is universal among all of these patients is a fear of the unknown and in most a desire to know what they can do to improve their outcome. The time from an initial worry of cancer to the confirmation of the disease is often the most stressful and anxiety producing time in a person’s journey with cancer. Often the diagnosis catches the individual by surprise and when they recover from the shock of the news the initial instinct is to figure it all out.
Life doesn’t come with an owner’s manual but at times like getting told you have cancer it is nice to have some guidance. By sharing my patient experiences and knowledge as a practicing surgical oncologist I hope to help others who face the challenge of a new cancer diagnosis. To offer them comfort in knowing they are not alone; wisdom from those who have been on a similar journey; and hope for getting your life back.