In her pre-ASCO Annual Meeting welcome letter, 2018-2019 ASCO President Dr. Monica M. Bertagnolli (@ASCOPres) focused on the word “every” in this year’s meeting theme: “Caring for Every Patient, Learning From Every Patient.” Dr. Bertagnolli focused on the importance of listening to, learning from, and offering the best care and best research opportunity for every patient in every community in the U.S. and worldwide. I also enjoyed her reminder of the great words of William Osler: “It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has.”
Ensuring that every patient gets access to the best care requires that, in addition to our clinical and research efforts, we assess all aspects and needs of our patients, including helping them to pay for their medical expenses and co-pays and reduce the impact of financial toxicity on their quality of life. It is with these thoughts that we continue our community work at all times of the year and at all special occasions to raise health awareness and raise funds to support patient with breast cancer.
Like every year, the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation (@Lbcf_Lebanon) and the Breast Center of Excellence at the Naef Basile Cancer Institute at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (@AUBMC_Official) organized a fundraising brunch on the occasion of Mother’s Day 2019, under the title of “Mother’s Health,” where we gathered mothers and daughters to have fun together, listen to patient testimonials, and raise funds to support mothers with breast cancer in need for financial support.
It was such a pleasure to hear the words of one of my own patients, Esperance Ghanem, a well-known Lebanese national television news anchor, talking about her own experience with diagnosis, neoadjuvant chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, and adjuvant hormone therapy. She emphasized the support of her family and friends who accompanied her at every chemotherapy session; she was so thankful to hospital nurses and staff who took great care of all her needs and made sure that her journey was rather positively memorable as well! It was very gratifying to hear the compliments she made to her oncologist, who happens to be me. It is so important to give our patients enough of our time: to pay attention to their symptoms, hear their medical and life concerns, be patient and answer all their questions, tell them what to expect at each step, and be truthful with them while keeping up their hope for overcoming treatment difficulties and surviving cancer.
It was also very helpful to have public entertainment television figures attend our brunch. Invitees, which included survivors of breast cancer, mothers, daughters, friends, and volunteers, were so happy to see and intermingle with famous actors and Miss Lebanon, hear some music, and enjoy a healthy Lebanese brunch! We also had the pleasure of the company of Her Excellency Mrs. Leila Solh Hamadeh and many other sponsors with us.
In addition to working with adults, we support education and health awareness at schools. We organize meetings with middle school and high school students, and encourage their initiatives. The daughter of our own breast imaging radiologist Ghina Berjawi, MD, organized a fundraising lunch with parents, where they were so happy to collect and donate money to support patients. It is so nice to see kids carry the torch of community work, and we decided to create a Junior Chapter of our Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation to advance health education and community support.
We have so much work to do, as clinicians and researchers, together with our patients, survivors, volunteers, communities, and the next generation of physicians and activists, in order to achieve our goals as nicely stated by Dr. Bertagnolli.
Dr. El Saghir with TV news anchor Esperance Ghanem. Ms. Ghanem is a breast cancer survivor and during the event gave an uplifting speech about her experience and her devotion to her family and children, as well as her gratitude for the support of the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation for patients undergoing chemotherapy.