- Because of the affection I had towards my grandpa, I always kept this to my heart - I will one day become a doctor and know what exactly is this thing called cancer that stole the only life companion I had. This is when I never looked back.
Here’s why being a medical doctor was my childhood dream career. At the age of 10, I lost my grandfather who died of cancer of the blood, leukemia. It wasn’t easy to realise that my hero submmited his dear life to cancer just like that.
Because of the affection I had towards my grandpa, I always kept this to my heart - I will one day become a doctor and know what exactly is this thing called cancer that stole the only life companion I had. This is when I never looked back.
Now I have become one. I spend a huge portion of my life avoiding confrontiation and trying to keep my patients happy, that’s one of my key responsibilities as a doctor.
It takes a vast amount of emotional fortitude for me to talk about things that might end up offending my patients.
My sincere advice
1. Do not ever mention someone died of cancer in a conversation with a cancer patient and his family:
Battling with cancer was a physical torture and a mental anguish that my grandpa went through till his last breath. One of the most heartbreaking moment I ever went through is the day I overheard someone telling my grandpa that there was a man who recently died of the same cancer.
Though my grandpa always stayed positive and encouraged himself that all will be okay someday, I’m sure he was aware that at some point he would lose his battle with the disease. But it wasn’t easy for me to take.
2. Mentioning recurrences while someone is being treated for cancer:
This is a really tough time for the patients. It is the fear all cancer patients go through. What if it comes back?
Such a thought is the forefront of my patients’ minds. It is the reality of this disease. It sometimes comes back and when it does, it often means the end. I find it too hard to make my patients swallow this fact, but for the betterment of their health improvement as survivors, I have no way. It also helps them draw more awareness in their progressive conditions.
I have come to learn this recently from one of my lung-cancer patients. I do check on him often and he expects me to ask him ‘how he is doing, how his family is doing, and how is his treatment progressing’. That doens’t bother me, I love being open to my patients and taking extra care of them, sharing and hoping to educate my patients and their families in the process.
One day, like the usual, I invited my patient in my office where we could have a patient-doctor chat to find out how he is really doing.
In the midst of our conversation, I mentioned to him about a friend who was diagnosed with the same cancer, was doing good but the cancer recurred, attacking her lungs once again.
He showed an honest empathy and anxiously asked me how she is doing. I took a long breath and told him that she died right after recurrence. He cut our conversation and suddenly left the office.
I kept myself in his shoes and realised what he must be feeling based on the fact that he is experiencing the very same. One must know, just like the way I did, that it hits patients very hard, mentioning recurrences and death, while being treated for cancer.