Cancer NarrativesF. Amos Bailey, MD Nov 19, 2019
MD Anderson Cancer Center has changed its branding to scratch the word Cancer out of their name.
I don’t begrudge them. They have done amazing work as have many others with developing treatments for cancers that once routinely killed. However, Cancer still Sucks and will lurk in almost all of our lives as either someone living with cancer or a family or friend with the disease.
In Resident Report Brooke Peterson Gabster, a resident writes about her life with progressive sarcoma. What I appreciate about her essay is that she bravely shares with us her anger, fears. She shows us how her life has broken and how she struggles to put it back together. She shares how Cancer Sucks.
With lines like this tells us what she really wants.
“I wish my life came with a warranty like the wedding dish that broke. For that, it was easy to fill out a claim and receive a perfect, identical replacement.”
A do-over. A mulligan. She knows this is not how life works, but she still wants this. Later she talks about reading her own CT report…
“I found out about my lung metastases during another hospitalization. Scared, impatient, and desperate for lost control, I opened my own chest CT report. As I read, I felt ripped from my body.”
This essay is filled with the raw emotions of having cancer. When we better understand the experiences of others, have empathy, we might find a way forward to help. Like the hospitalist who hugged her so tightly she shared that space of anguish. Or the oncologist who sat with her to review the CT scan and the psychiatrist that cried with her as she discussed her fears. They all, if even imperfectly, shared her experience and in doing that shared the burden. All of them wanted to erase cancer but it is not yet possible.
Read the essay here: https://ja.ma/2Kbx1ar
Gabster, B. P. (2019). Resident Report. Jama, 322(17), 1653-1654. What a Physician With Cancer Needs From Her Doctors