By Raj Mohan, MS, DNB, Mch
Are we fighting a losing battle? Patients, relatives, and colleagues including fellow doctors and other oncology professionals ask this question with alarming frequency in almost all oncology centres. It is sometimes difficult to answer this question convincingly, many a times when one’s own mind get bogged down by failures.
Even if one were to consider oneself optimistic, tumor recurrences and metastatic terminal disease hurts you and pessimism does crop up once in a while. However much you try to distance yourself from getting emotionally attached, suffering and death are two things from which you can’t just switch off at your will.
Many a times it so happens that failures in cancer treatment are highlighted more than successes and the staff and the general public gets a negative view of the entire system.
Although easier said than done, I believe it is still important to hang on, do all the small and big things in treatment protocols with a lot of love, compassion, and involvement. Our actions may not always bring on success, but for those who look up to us, it is important to instill the optimism and confidence that we mean well. After all, it is important to try and to lose than to lose by never trying at all.
Light at the end of this tunnel does exist. To find that light, it is of paramount importance to hang on, to support and guide the patient at every step of his or her treatment. I strongly believe that not only the destination, but the journey is equally, if not more, important and that our role may be to make that journey the patient takes as smooth as is humanly possible. We may or may not be there with the patient at his or her destination, but he or she is going to remember the journey in a profound way and that should be worth the effort.
Dr. Mohan is a surgical oncologist with the Indian Air Force in Bangalore, India. He is a 2017 recipient of ASCO and Conquer Cancer’s International Development and Education Award.