Cancer: The Unwanted Guest

Cancer: The Unwanted Guest

Who wants Cancer?

Not me. Not anyone I know of. Yet, cancer has touched everyone. Do you know anyone who has not had a family member, friend, work associate or neighbor without cancer? Probably not , because if you live long enough one in three women and one in two men will develop it. As physicians, we are trained to diagnose and treat illness. As an oncologist, I have spent twenty-five years seeing miraculous cures and heartbreaking tragedies in patients who developed cancer.

I remember an older patient who had developed brain metastasis. His life expectancy was on average 6 months. He wasn’t sure if he wanted treatment but eventually he decided to have brain radiation therapy to improve his quality of life. He did well but we did not see him again and we assumed he had passed away. About two years later one of our nurses came rushing into the department and said” look who’s here in the waiting room”. I couldn’t believe it, here he was volunteering to transport patients to their appointments. He was cancer free!!!

I pulled out his chart and reviewed it. Was the diagnosis wrong? Had we made a mistake? No, he had brain metastasis. I reviewed the MRI and plain as day he had multiple cancerous lesions in his brain. He said he was really happy he had the brain radiation and I was too. I was also dumbfounded. This is not supposed to happen but it did. Whereas, I would love to take credit for this miraculous cure, I know there had to be some kind of divine intervention. These wonderful things do happen but unfortunately it is rare. Better to never get the disease or at least lower our risk of cancer whenever possible

About ten years ago I treated a 19-year-old patient with metastatic melanoma. I see very few young patients since cancer in this age group is uncommon. I remember her well. She was fair complexioned , light reddish blonde hair and the sweetest smile. She looked like a typical high school cheerleader and come to think of it, I think she had been. A beautiful young girl with her whole life ahead of her or at least, it should have been. I treated her back with radiation to help ease her pain and I thought, why should a nineteen-year-old have back pain, let alone metastatic cancer? I don’t have these answers, although, I wish I did. I treated her and the treatment helped ease her pain. She passed away about 6 months later.

When I think about her, I still feel so sad for such a loss. I saw her mother about 2 years later as she had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. She had a good prognosis and did quite well, but I can’t help to think how unfair life can be.

Physicians in this country are historically not trained in the prevention of disease. The training has improved in this regard recently and most physicians try very hard to instill in their patient’s life style changes that will help them lead a better quality of life but time is short and compliance is low. When physicians have a roomful of sick patients needing care, priorities are very clear-try to make these patient’s health better. When a patient is confronted with a prime rib dinner or a triple chocolate anything—well, we are all human.

We can all eat better. I love chocolate. I remember when I was pregnant; I desired Cheetos and ginger snaps. Together. I could not stand the smell of chocolate nor could I eat garlic. I was hoping that my dread for chocolate would continue post- partum but no. After giving birth, the love of Cheetos with ginger snaps remained and of course my love of chocolate returned. Garlic, the one healthy thing on the list, remained repugnant to me.

Physicians are human too. We can all live better lifestyles to improve our health. One easy way is to get enough sunshine, not burn, and to try to keep our Vitamin D3 levels high. My next blog will discuss D3 levels how important and easy they are to achieve.