As I watched the fireworks over Navy Pier last night, I began thinking about the many ways in which I was inspired on Friday. I have included a few below:
- Dr. Link, who in his Presidential Address, charted the progress of ASCO over the past year, detailed how collaboration has resulted in successes in pediatric oncology, and who reminded us of Einstein’s wise maxim, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- The Sages of Social Media (as I call them), a hearty group of dedicated technophiles, who tirelessly seek to maximize the potential of social media in our field.
- Dr. Theresa Gilewski, who shared her childhood memories of the care of a relative with cancer, and who reminded us of Voltaire’s words, “Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do.”
- Dr. Peter Bach, who shared with us the vulnerability of being the physician-spouse. His moving essays about his journey with his wife Ruth through the treatment of breast cancer can be found in a series of essays in The New York Times.
- Dr. Martin Raber who, in his own encounter with cancer, reminded us that we are always “on stage” and not only does it matter how we treat our patients, it matters how we treat each other.
- Dr. George Sledge, who shared the tender moments he experienced with his father during his journey with cancer as he thoughtfully reflected upon being the oncologist-relative. As he discussed all the issues that come into consideration in this role, including our history, knowledge of the system, and plight of knowing too much, I realized the pitfalls to which I had yielded with a recent diagnosis of cancer within my own family. He spoke about his dislike of the term “acceptable toxicity,” which calls to mind a recent thought-provoking commentary by Dr. Don Dizon on The Power of Words. And really, what does acceptable toxicity mean anyway?
He emphasized the following tenets for the oncologist-relative:
- You can be a doctor or a relative, but you cannot be both
- Ensure your relative is in the best hands and then step out of the way
- There really is no such thing as “acceptable toxicity”
- Hope matters and motivates
- Be present
- Remember the person and forget the cancer
- And finally, for the reason that we are really here: our many patients who have braved our therapies with courage and grace and partnered with us in the quest to extinguish cancer.
I hope you, too, are inspired each day during your time here at the Annual Meeting and beyond…