I want to be politically correct about this; I do not want anyone getting the wrong idea. Do not think I am some sort of weird-disease-fighting junkie. Do not think I am not humbled to have the opportunity to practice medicine. Nonetheless, as I return from vacation today, rejoin the war against the dread disease, I am thrilled.
I suffer with my patients, cry with their loss and lose sleep from their pain. But, I have to admit that after a few days off to rest, read, walk and write, the energy which radiates from the battlefield is inspiring. As I catch up on my calls, emails and files, I feel cancer warriors together on the attack, and the resolve that drives them on.
Each patient is different, at a different place in their care, in their lives. Some, recently diagnosed, are just learning about the disease and making plans. I made multiple calls today, explaining first tests and next steps. It is confusing to be a neoplasm neophyte, nonetheless I am astonished how fast people learn, how amazingly they cope, and their determination to move forward.
Other patients are in the middle of simple or complex treatments, which may have gone on for weeks, months or years. While, they are more sophisticated in their concerns, they are often tired and dealing with side effects and healing. Several of these patients, on active therapy, had saved questions or ideas awaiting my return. These conversations take the most thought and discussion, because these patients and families have a greater understanding of the disease process. As a group, they teach me the most.
Other patients, beyond active therapy, are at two completely different times in life. The first, are those in remission, trying to rebuild. This is often a severe challenge, not nearly as simple as just starting over. The second group, are those whose cancer is progressing. They and their families are making the toughest decisions of their lives, as they try to use the remaining time well. Depending upon how they have prepared, these patients may require the most time and listening.
Amazing office staff caregivers support each of these groups of patients and families, and the break serves to remind me of the compassion of these incredible people. Clerical, administration and billing staff help patients slug through the nuts and bolts of getting things done, even when patients feel miserable; it requires real patience and skill to do their jobs.
The nurses who not only put in IVs, give drugs, clean wounds, wipe bottoms, organize the days of their patients, but also hold a hand, wipe a tear and always-always-always are ready with a gentle smile. Technicians, housekeeping, maintenance and in the hospitals a massive staff, keep the care machine giving. These people blow me away.
And finally, doctors. Be they students, interns, residents, fellows or my companion attendings, the commitment of physicians to lead the war against the malignant scourge, makes me honored to stand by their side. Be it at the bedside, in the lab or behind a desk, working 60 – 80 – 100 hours a week, year after year, they infuse their profession with intelligence, passion, and always the hope of healing.
Once more, into the fray. Can you feel the power of numbers and resolve? More than pale hope, feel the righteous anger, courage and selfless sacrifice! There is a war here. It is a war against a disgusting, pathetic foe. It is an enemy from which we will never give quarter, never rest and never stop our attack, until the disease is no more and the weakest among us, is forever healed.