Is cancer cureable?

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This story is 12 years old. I was fresh out of college and chatting with a woman in her mid-50s. She asked questions about my hospitalization and recovery and, as with many folks, wanted to share her story.


This woman’s mother had recently passed away due to cancer. The form, I’m not sure. As we talked, she became kinda adamant (oxy moron, I know) and stated, “I just know there’s a cure for cancer out there! They just don’t want to tell us because there’s so much money in cancer! They’re sacrificing people’s lives so they can make money!”


Okay, pet peeve #49,582. Saying “they” in reference to, well, anything. Be specific when you talk. Especially if you’re making accusations.


While this was the first time I heard someone vocalize this opinion, it certainly wasn’t the last. Many times since that day, I’ve heard laymen (i.e., non medical professionals) talk about how much money goes into cancer research, cancer treatment, pharmaceuticals, etc. No one can deny that it’s not just cancer, but freaking everything in the American health care system is too expensive. But, the claim this woman made is that there is something sinister going on behind the sceens. That “they” are purposefully not working towards a cure or early detection or treatments or whatever because “they” just want to make money. It’s a nice conspiracy theory, but it’s pure bunk.


Look, over the weekend, I was honored to present for the Joint Conference of the North Carolina Oncology Association and the South Carolina Oncology Society. Every oncologist, nurse, etc. I met was absolutely genuine in his/her desire to fight this horrible disease. I simply do not buy into the idea that these individuals who are on the front line of cancer treatment are hiding something simply to line their pockets. It’s just foolish to think otherwise.


Now, I’m going to totally change gears. I just had to get that first part off my chest because, after meeting so many fantastic professionals in the world of oncology, that kind of notion feels disrespectful. Okay, stepping down off my soapbox.


Working with this org, which is composed of all kinds of oncology professionals was a little different than what I’m used to. Most typically, I speak for nurses, nursing students and other health care professionals that are NOT doctors. Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a hierarchy in health care. And doctors are at the top. This dynamic is interesting when there are also a good amount of nurses in the room.


Anyway, I posed a question to the oncology professionals: “Has a patient ever come back to thank you?” Most everyone in the audience said yes. Oncology is such a different area of medicine that I wasn’t surprised. After all, patients look at oncologists as life savers, maybe more than any other faction of health care. Because of the dynamic created when someone’s life has been saved, it’s no wonder these oncology professionals receive a lot of gratitude. And they should! But so should that nurse who also takes care of us. So should that patient care tech who helps us bathe when we can’t do it solo. So should that housekeeping staff member who takes a few moments to chat when she comes in the room to clean up.


Appreciation. Gratitude. Just saying thank you. It’s something I expressed to these oncology professionals and I hope you will take time to thank the health care professional of your choice, too.

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