A Cancer Lesson From a TV Show

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A new television show, as well as a recent CURE campaign, gave insight to life with cancer.

It is interesting to observe the lessons one can learn from a supposedly recreational television program. I was watching a new series this year called “New Amsterdam.” Surprisingly, the show features a medical director of the hospital who has cancer. He was talking to a Rabbi with cancer faced with what seemed like an impossible decision. The Rabbi could either go home and live a year with his family, doing chemo and radiation, or have a surgery which he had only a 10 percent chance of surviving due to a bad heart, but he would be cured. He chose the surgery.

When the doctor asked him why he made the decision he did, the Rabbi’s answer hit me like a ton of bricks. He replied, “I can either wake up dead or cured, but will no longer be a patient.”

Later in the show, the doctor decided to have a clinical trial targeting his cancer rather than chemo and radiation in spite of the lesser chance of surviving with the trial. His oncologist was dismayed, but he told her emphatically, “I don’t want to be a patient — I want to be myself.”

CURE recently ran a campaign that I can relate to called “more than a patient.” It occurred to me after this program that what is bothering me about my incurable blood cancer is that I will be a patient until I draw my last breath. Other cancer survivors (but not all) come and go from the cancer center, but I am there forever. Honestly, the only thing that keeps me going is that the staff and oncologist are so wonderful to me and have become my friends. In other words, they “get it!”

Of course, I am a patient at my family doctor’s office, but if I’m not sick, I go in twice a year for regular wellness checkups. This is totally different. All of us with chronic diseases face the fact we do not have a choice and will be a patient forever. CURE really hit the nail on the head with that motto. I am constantly on chemo, have bone marrow biopsies twice a year, and visit the cancer center monthly,

However, I am more than a patient. I am very vocal about what I think at the Patient Advisory Council meetings. I love to talk to my doctor about my writing, my travels and my family. I am sure she realizes the psychological benefit of talking to her patients about their lives and that is why she is so good at what she does. I write articles explaining I do many other things with my life, instead of just being a patient.

No matter what treatments I am receiving, no matter whether I am cured for good, I am not “just” another patient. I may have to fight a little harder for the status of being my own person. However, it behooves all of us to remember that “I am more than a patient — I am ME!!! “