Spring has sprung—Easter and Passover are upon us; the earth is waking up and trees are coming alive. For me, this time of year is a time for rebirth and renewal. This spring is especially lovely because I just became an uncle too (P.S. Congratulations to my sister, Maerica, and her husband, Brian, and my new nephew!).

This season also reminds me of the journey my own patients take. I like to describe the diagnosis of cancer and its treatment as analogous to an unplanned train ride. No, you may not have wanted to get on that train, but now that you're on board, there's little choice but to go along for the ride. Treatment, I say, is like entering a tunnel—it might be a dark and long tunnel, but no one travels through it alone, and yes, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. In my analogy, I am the conductor—my job is to take tickets and ensure the trip goes as smoothly as possible.

What does spring have to do with this? Well, it isn't the train ride itself that reminds me of spring, but what happens after the tunnel ends. When the train stops and patients get off the train—that's what reminds me of spring; it is the discovery of life after cancer, which, as best exemplified by my friend Dr. Anne Katz, is also called the "new normal."

It's after treatment has ended that I marvel at how alive some patients are. It's as if they have discovered the mystery of life—of just how precious life really is. I marvel at those who see remission as a rebirth; discover their inner strength, and, as a result, begin to face circumstances they had previously ignored or been unwilling to face before cancer. Whether it be changes in relationships, jobs, or personal circumstances, some patients seem to treat the end of cancer therapy (and the new normal) as a gift not to be taken for granted. At the end of adjuvant treatment, one thing is almost universally true—after it's over, there is no going back.

Somehow, I don't think this experience is unique to patients who have faced cancer. I think it is one shared by anyone touched by a potentially fatal illness. I saw my own father go through quite a similar rebirth after his first major heart attack. Upon recovery he left the job he hated, quit the vices that likely attributed to his heart disease, and rediscovered us—his kids and his wife. Many years later he would continue to celebrate the day he had his first heart attack as a second "birthday."

With Easter approaching and spring upon us, I hope that all cancer survivors discover their strength to face the future with arms wide open, ready to embrace it, without fear of recurrence and of what the future might hold. I often say that the strongest people I know are the ones who walk into my clinic each day. For me, they are the only proof that I need that the human spirit cannot be broken. 

Happy Easter and Happy Passover, everyone!


The ideas and opinions expressed on the ASCO Connection Blogs do not necessarily reflect those of ASCO. None of the information posted on is intended as medical, legal, or business advice, or advice about reimbursement for health care services. The mention of any product, service, company, therapy or physician practice on does not constitute an endorsement of any kind by ASCO. ASCO assumes no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property arising out of or related to any use of the material contained in, posted on, or linked to this site, or any errors or omissions.

Back to Top