I had the honor of interviewing the physicians at Grand Valley Oncology this summer to write their bios for their website. Of course, education and experience made the cut, but I wanted anyone who read about them to see their softer side. Who they are outside of the cancer center. I quickly found out: who they are outside of the cancer center is exactly who they are at work.
It was universal: they love their job. There may have been different reasons they have chosen their profession and many different avenues got them to their current positions, but there was a collective, “I am exactly where I am supposed to be” theme.
They work hard. They continue to study and to learn in a field that changes daily. They see their patients on this life-altering journey and they walk beside them, helping them find hope. It was Dr. Virgilio who said, “I truly believe that cancer has its bad side but it changes people for the good. The living presence of God: That’s the good.”
What caught my attention was the resounding positive attitude they all have and the need to share that positivity with their patients. Dr. Miller said, “Cancer gives you a different philosophy on life. You can choose to live every day or die every day.”
And then an interesting point came up more than once.
Cancer is the only place in healthcare where we talk about winning the war and fighting the battle. This analogy started with The National Cancer Act passed in 1971. The bill strengthened the National Cancer Institute’s efforts in fighting the war against cancer. The problem with the analogy is this: none of us get out of this world alive. So does that mean we all lose the battle? And whether it’s your favorite sports team battling it out on the field or in my case, my father’s battle with leukemia, no one wants to lose.
Today my thoughts took me to the last hug I received from my father. The time had come when he decided there would be no more chemo. He and my mother were packing their Airstream trailer to head south after the Christmas holidays. (It gets cold in South Dakota!) As I left my childhood home that day, Dad gave me a hug. Now, we have always been “a hug and a kiss” kind of family, but that hug was different. That hug was just a little tighter and lingered just a little longer, and I knew in that moment he was telling me goodbye. But that hug also said so many other things. Be strong. Be grateful. Be faithful. You are loved.
We all have moments like this. Life is tough. Cancer or no cancer.
But maybe it is time to change the phrase and end the war.
Cancer is a journey. As Dr. Higdon said, “Cancer is a family affair, but it is also a lonely journey. Support your loved one in their decision.” We all need to support our loved ones wherever they are at on their path. Stop setting people up to lose the fight. Support them with strength. With compassion. With an open heart. Support them with open arms.
Go ahead. Cancer or no cancer, hug your loved ones. Join them on their journey, whatever that journey looks like. And let them know: they are loved.
Jana, MA, CHWC
Community Hospital Blog Contributor