Monday, November 22, 2010

Cancer Sucks

I wear a button on my white coat everyday that says "Cancer Sucks." Some people LOVE the button and i have even gotten complaints about it because it says "sucks." However, what it says is true- cancer sucks.

The first patient i ever met that had cancer was during my 2nd year of med school. We had a class, physical diagnosis, that met every other month for one day a week where we would learn how to interview a patient and do a complete physical exam, and then write it up in the standard SOAP note. My physical diagnosis group was led by an Endocrinologist and during our 1st meeting, the patient we had to interview was a 50-something year old lady with breast cancer. And i remember talking with her and her husband like it was yesterday. The husband starts the interview with "well, when i found the lump in her breast...." and i said, "excuse me, you found the lump?" And he said "yes, i found the lump," with a big grin on his face.
I don't know what happened to that lady. The unfortunate thing about that class was we interviewed the patient and then never saw them my heart she is doing well, in recovery, but in my mind, i sometimes think otherwise.

Fast forward 6 years. I have now taken care of many patients with cancer as a med student, internal medicine resident, and now pulmonary fellow. And have even had loved ones that have been diagnosed with it. It is everywhere. Lung cancer, breast cancer, bone cancer, cell line cancers, renal cell cancer, GI cancer...the list goes on and on.

The one thing i have noticed with all of these cancer patients is that these unfortunate diagnoses happen to the nicest people. From the man who owns the wine shop by my house (who i have known for 10 years), to my best friend from college's brother, to my dear father-in-law, to the marine who i took care of in the ICU for the past 20 days. These people leave behind families, spouses, parents, children, brothers/sisters and loved ones who ask "why? Why did this happen?" We don't know why and it is hard to find comfort in the saying "everything happens for a reason" because it is so cliche and overused. But it is true. There is a great explanation for these people being taken away from us too soon, too early, too quickly- and sometimes our ears are closed to hearing it because of our anger or sadness- but there is one.

Until we get those answers and there are still tears that are shed, all i can say is Cancer Sucks.

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