Survivors of the storm

The saying is that if the all you have is a hammer, then the entire world looks like a nail.  To twist the phrase, if you are an oncologist all that happens in the world looks like cancer.  As an oncologist I ask; what can we learn about fighting cancer from Hurricane Sandy and the devastation, which it left behind?

After the passage of the storm, we found ourselves without.  We were without electricity, gas, heat, food, and for many, secure shelter. We lost so much, as things we treasured were ripped away.  We were deprived of independence and privacy, stripped of the comfort and safety we daily take for granted.  We trembled cold, frightened, and hungry, a two-legged animal struggling to survive in a violent, uncaring world, each of us vulnerable, isolated, feeling alone.

This catastrophic event was very much like the experience of having cancer, and at very least can teach us a lesson in what patients go through every day.  The cancer diagnosis lays each of us bare.  We feel frail and isolated, forced into a battle as primal as nature; the battle to survive.  Even though we may be in the warmth of our own homes, the comforts of modern life pale and we are naked before the tempest.

However, Sandy taught a more powerful and incredible lesson.  That lesson is one of immense love and strength.  We are not alone. We are never alone.  The family of man truly is a family and on the coldest days, we stand together against the wind.  In the lee of the Hurricane, without hesitation, without personal consideration, despite fear, we rush together.  We fight, suffer and sacrifice for each other.  Isolated man is an illusion.  We struggle as one.

This great hope is a vital lesson in the war against cancer.  No patient is ever alone.  Whether it is family, friend, neighbor, nurse, office worker, researcher, minister, administrator, cop, aide, doctor, pharmacist, cook or belief in an immortal god, we fight the illness together. It is WE that make US strong.  Isolation is the illusion. We struggle as one. Together we build, heal and rise. Survivors of the storm.



  • Lovely post, and perfect for the season. The only addition I would make, just as we are not alone, one of the things that keeps us going through the rigours of treatment and recovery, is the love we have for those close to us. We help others just as they help us. Best wishes for the holidays.
    • James Salwitz, MD
      Yeah, that love thing is pretty darn important. Have a wonderful time with your family over the holidays, jcs
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  • Thank you for writing such a wonderful post. Hope is crucial as is the support and love of others. I wrote about Sandy's Impact (

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