Treatment Snapshot
March 24, 2010
Excerpt from "Only 10 Seconds to Care"
December 23, 2009 – Wendy Harpham, MD
Cancer as a Turning Point
December 23, 2009 – Don Vaughan
Best Face Forward
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Recipes from Chef Hans Rueffert
December 20, 2009
A Skinny Chef You Can Trust
December 22, 2009 – Karen Patterson
Getting Help
December 23, 2009 – Jo Cavallo
Stress Reducers
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Cisforcupid.com
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Only 10 Seconds to Care: Help and Hope for Busy Clinicians
December 23, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
Flavored-Cigarette Ban Takes Effect, With More to Come
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Stress, Depression & PTSD
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Imaging Strategies: The Bigger Picture
December 23, 2009 – Laura Beil
Herceptin Combinations Improve Survival, Lessen Heart Toxicity
December 23, 2009 – Laura Beil
Integrative Techniques: A Sampler
December 23, 2009 – Marc Silver
Drug Therapies
December 23, 2009 – Elizabeth Whittington
Letters from Our Readers
December 23, 2009
Treatment Updates
December 23, 2009 – Staff Reports
CDC picks up the tab for colon cancer screening
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Mutant Tissue Wanted
December 23, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
The More You Know
December 23, 2009 – Helen Osborne
Patients' Songs Take Flight
December 23, 2009 – Bunmi Ishola
Q&A: Cervical Cancer Vaccine
December 23, 2009 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Comfort in Strange Places
December 23, 2009 – Susie Kasinski Drummond
The 'Price' is $1 Million
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Pancreatic Cancer Symposia
December 23, 2009
Tired of Being Tired?
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Message From the Editor
December 23, 2009 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Beneficial Brew
December 23, 2009 – Lena Huang
Gut Reaction
December 23, 2009 – Karen Patterson
Today's Lesson: Cancer
December 23, 2009 – Bunmi Ishola
Uncertain Obligations
December 23, 2009 – Jo Cavallo
Beyond Face Value
December 22, 2009 – Terry Healey
Cancer's Silver Lining
December 22, 2009 – Don Vaughan
Kids Allowed
December 21, 2009 – Marc Silver
Layman's Terms
December 23, 2009 – Charlotte Huff
All Stressed Out
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Bad Neighbors
December 22, 2009 – Laura Beil
Treatment Snapshot
March 24, 2010
Currently Viewing
Excerpt from "Only 10 Seconds to Care"
December 23, 2009 – Wendy Harpham, MD
Best Face Forward
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Recipes from Chef Hans Rueffert
December 20, 2009
A Skinny Chef You Can Trust
December 22, 2009 – Karen Patterson
Getting Help
December 23, 2009 – Jo Cavallo
Stress Reducers
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Cisforcupid.com
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Only 10 Seconds to Care: Help and Hope for Busy Clinicians
December 23, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
Flavored-Cigarette Ban Takes Effect, With More to Come
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Stress, Depression & PTSD
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Imaging Strategies: The Bigger Picture
December 23, 2009 – Laura Beil
Herceptin Combinations Improve Survival, Lessen Heart Toxicity
December 23, 2009 – Laura Beil
Integrative Techniques: A Sampler
December 23, 2009 – Marc Silver
Drug Therapies
December 23, 2009 – Elizabeth Whittington
Letters from Our Readers
December 23, 2009
Treatment Updates
December 23, 2009 – Staff Reports
CDC picks up the tab for colon cancer screening
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Mutant Tissue Wanted
December 23, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
The More You Know
December 23, 2009 – Helen Osborne
Patients' Songs Take Flight
December 23, 2009 – Bunmi Ishola
Q&A: Cervical Cancer Vaccine
December 23, 2009 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Comfort in Strange Places
December 23, 2009 – Susie Kasinski Drummond
The 'Price' is $1 Million
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Pancreatic Cancer Symposia
December 23, 2009
Tired of Being Tired?
December 23, 2009 – Lacey Meyer
Message From the Editor
December 23, 2009 – Debu Tripathy, MD
Beneficial Brew
December 23, 2009 – Lena Huang
Gut Reaction
December 23, 2009 – Karen Patterson
Today's Lesson: Cancer
December 23, 2009 – Bunmi Ishola
Uncertain Obligations
December 23, 2009 – Jo Cavallo
Beyond Face Value
December 22, 2009 – Terry Healey
Cancer's Silver Lining
December 22, 2009 – Don Vaughan
Kids Allowed
December 21, 2009 – Marc Silver
Layman's Terms
December 23, 2009 – Charlotte Huff
All Stressed Out
December 23, 2009 – Laurie M. Fisher
Bad Neighbors
December 22, 2009 – Laura Beil

Excerpt from "Only 10 Seconds to Care"

Reflections on a Haven 2007

BY Wendy Harpham, MD
PUBLISHED December 23, 2009

The day I completed my ninth round of cancer treatment in November 2007, I realized in a whole new way how the pain of treatments is linked to hope.  

You make me sick, y’know. So with giddy joy I’m about to bid you farewell. Sayonara. And hallelujah. No more IVs. No more pricks. No more nasty needlesticks.

Two years ago, after a deliciously long remission, my lymphoma recurred yet again. My best option was returning to you. Now, with calculated coolness, I’m strolling by the nurses’ station, hoping I can get my final treatment without letting it slip that today is my last day. Please, no shower of confetti for me; let’s just get this over with.

As usual, one of the nurses catches my eye and nods as if to say, “You’re in.” Mothers may have eyes in the back of their head, but that’s nothing compared to your nurses. They monitor computer screens, incoming and outgoing visitors and patients, vital signs, emotions and, most importantly, injections and drips where a misplaced decimal can decimate.  

I watch one of the younger oncologists breeze through. I’m sure I walked with the same confidence years ago in my practice, not realizing I was as close to understanding my patients’ experiences as prison guards are to their charges’ lives behind bars.

Kathy appears out of the drug room, ripping an alcohol-swab packet with her teeth as she approaches. She tells a short story to serenade me during the slow subcutaneous injection.

Snap. Kathy’s gloves are off. My throat suddenly tightens, and my salivary glands start tingling the way they do when I’m trying not to cry. I have never felt emotional like this when I’ve finished treatment before.

In 1991 when the nurse took out my last IV, I felt dazed. And scared. Without you, how could I trust my body to keep the cancer at bay—the same body that had allowed the cancer to grow? Leaving you felt like leaping off a ship, with the shoreline far away.

Over the years, after each recurrence you served as the epicenter of my hope—ground zero for the match between science-based therapies and my cancer. At the end of each treatment course, my thoughts focused completely on my future: What could I do to hasten my recovery? How could I pursue happiness now, after cancer? Would I beat the odds and stay well?

“Done,” Kathy announces.

I stand up and instinctively hug her. “Thanks for everything,” I say, while thrusting a bag filled with gifts in her hand. “Here. These are for y’all.”

“Oh! Is this your last treatment?”

I nod, feeling like a regular at a bar where everyone knows my name and “good-bye” means “until next time.”

But I’m not thinking about if or when I’ll have a “next time.” I’m just glad I’m done, and I want to get out. Yet as I head straight for the door, my legs take me on a detour toward Brook, who’s eyeing an IV and counting drops.

“Hey, Brook.”

She looks over her shoulder.

“Bye,” I say, my arms opening wide.

Brook falls in without hesitation. It’s a nurse thing: No explanation necessary. Only after I let go, does she register today’s “why.”

“Wendy,” Brook calls as I walk away. “We’ll see you ’round.”

“I hope not!” I blurt out without thinking.

“No, not here….” Brook stammers, swirling her pen in the air as if mixing cake batter in a bowl, “Around, with your lectures and books.”

“Okay,” I chuckle, choke up and keep walking. 

This doesn’t make sense. I’ve learned to live well with the uncertainty. And with my youngest child now off at college, the primary fuel for my fear of dying has slowed to a trickle. I’m less anxious about tomorrow, so why am I more emotional about finishing treatment?

Maybe it’s because I’m realizing what you’ve done for me beyond easing my hard times and nourishing my hope of surviving: You have given me reason to believe in a future where everyone treats everyone else with kindness and patience, love and caring, and mutual respect.

You see, lately I’ve been struggling with increasing worries about the world in which my children will grow old, given the pressing weight of global troubles that have no resolution in sight. Yet I’ve never lost hope. And I believe it is partly thanks to you. Each time I’ve come here, I’ve seen people under stress working and laughing together in perfect harmony, using knowledge and technology only for good. In this space, my hoped-for possibility is a reality.

Using a voice that won’t startle Amy, who’s sitting with her back to me beside the patient by the door, I whisper, “Thanks for everything.” Then, against my better judgment, I come up from behind and wrap my right arm around Amy’s upper chest, careful not to contaminate her gloved hands. “Bye, Amy.” She reciprocates the only way possible, by putting pressure on my arm with her head.

Briskly I head down the short hall to the office exit. Hundreds of times over the years, without a second thought I’ve pressed the little red button on the wall to unlock the door. As I reach for it today, it strikes me as funny. “What? Are you trying to slow down escapees?”

As if on cue, Amy grabs me from behind—“Was today your last time?”—and pulls me into her arms. She doesn’t mind that I’m leaving a smudge of mascara on the shoulder of her shirt before she returns to the haven I’m leaving behind, maybe—hopefully—forever.

Moments later, I am regaining my composure as the elevator’s humming crescendos into a ding. The doors open. I step in and don’t look back.

Yeah, you make me sick. That’s how you get me well. And I love you for it.

  • We help patients heal by reminding them that the same treatments that make them sick offer them hope of improvement.

  • Even if we are busy caring for sick patients, everyone benefits when we take a moment to say good-bye to patients who no longer need our care.

  • We comfort patients by explaining that long after we stop caring for them, we will continue to care about them.

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