Aliens, Dumplings and 'The Business'
April 27, 2018 – Ryan Hamner
Mental Health Healing
April 27, 2018 – Justin Birckbichler
I May Look Good, But I Still Pay the Price
April 26, 2018 – Jane Biehl, Ph.D.
Working Naps Into Post-Cancer Healing
April 26, 2018 – Tamera Anderson-Hanna
Life Lessons from Hummingbirds and Cancer
April 26, 2018 – Doris Cardwell
A Little Bit of Lymphedema
April 26, 2018 – Barbara Carlos
Lost Time
April 25, 2018 – Justin Birckbichler
Choosing to Feed Faith Over Fear
April 25, 2018 – Doris Cardwell
Are There Max Coverage Limits on Emotional Support Plans?
April 25, 2018 – Ryan Hamner
These Are The Things I Can Give To Myself After Cancer Surgery
April 24, 2018 – Barbara Tako

Cancer Survivors Speak, Doctors Listen

Doctors, don't just hear us, listen to us.
PUBLISHED April 09, 2018
Ryan Hamner is a four-time survivor of Hodgkin lymphoma, a musician and a writer. In 2011, he wrote and recorded, "Where Hope Lives" for the American Cancer Society and the song for survivors, "Survivors Survive" used in 2015 for #WorldCancerDay. Recently, he published his book, This is Remission: A Four-Time Cancer Survivor's Memories of Treatment, Struggle, and Life, available on Amazon.
"We normally wouldn't do it this way, but with your background, I'm just going to go ahead and put you on the antibiotics," the ER doctor said.

I had been having nasal congestion, sinus irritation and more recently terrible facial pain on the right side of my face that was now going down into my teeth. It had started five days earlier and had progressively gotten much worse. It turns out, it was "just" a bad sinus infection.

So, what does a sinus infection have to do with cancer? Well, nothing exactly. However, if your immune system has been compromised by cancer treatment, then treatment of an infection might need to be approached a little differently.

The ER doctor understood how my health history fit in to the picture. In my opinion, he totally made the right choice with the antibiotics. He didn't stick to the textbook protocol that had gotten me into trouble months earlier at the same "top" hospital – a situation that went from a nasty stomach virus to brutally painful pericarditis accompanied by a seven-day hospital stay – a stay in which I literally laid there in pain with no treatment. It was all in the name of "protocol.”

The situations were very much alike, but had much different outcomes because of one thing. The ER doctor considered my history and knew that standard protocol wasn't the best route for me.

He also listened to what I had to say. Whereas, in my opinion, and in the opinion of other doctors, the internal medicine team from my hospital stay in January of 2018, who followed protocol by the letter in regards to how antibiotics are administered, got it all wrong. Again, it made me worse, much worse and I ended up being in the hospital for seven days.

"My advice to docs: be careful in extrapolating protocols to heavily treated cancer survivors likely not included in the original data set. They have less reserve," says Rick Boulay, M.D.

So, what are the key takeaways here? For former cancer patients, you know your body. So always be sure to speak up when you are communicating with doctors and medical staff about your health and what's worked in the past, what hasn't. Be sure they "get" what you are trying to communicate; make sure they listen.

As for doctors, we all get it and appreciate it. You have spent a lot of time studying, learning, observing. You're loaded with knowledge, and we can all respect that. Please though, listen to your patients. It could mean the difference in a discharge from the ER with a script for antibiotics or a seven-day stay in the hospital.

Continue the conversation on CURE’s forum. >>
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Anxiety/Depression CURE discussion group.

Related Articles


Sign In

Not a member? Sign up now!

Sign Up

Are you a member? Please Log In