Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Cancer sucks

Ninteen-year old Robert came with pain in his leg after playing basketball. He was expecting to be told that he had a muscle spasm or a sprained ankle. Instead we found that he had an aggressvie cancer that was destroying his bones and had already spread all over his body.

Last Friday which was my last day in the cancer center, we sent Robert to Hopsice, a service that takes care of dying patients expected to live less than six months. It was so devastating to tell a teenager who just joined college and was looking to become a lawyer and a basketball player that he wouldn't survive till next Christmas.

Cancer sucks, not because it kills people, after all there are many things that kill. Cancer sucks because it makes its victims feel the taste of death and live it everyday. You can sense that in the tone of agony in their voices and the looks of exhaustion in their eyes. You can tell they've been fighting for too long as you see them struggling to get out of bed and change their small "vomiting bucket" which have become an extension of their hands.

Those who survived cancer are lucky because cancer didn't break them but made them stronger. Those who are losing the battle usually know it before their doctors do but they don't stop fighting and as they lose the battle they do it with their heads held high after they accepted death but refused dying and didn't allow the loss on their last day to spoil their celebration of victory for a thousand days before that, and as cancer was destroying their bones and lungs it made their hearts stronger and their minds brighter.

So if you see a sick frail person sitting on a wheelchair who can't even look up or talk do your best to help, but don't think of her/him as a weak person, because those people who are almost crippled by their disease and who would not take their next breath foregranted have hearts of thunder that makes them larger than life.


raindrop said...

this's very touching, it reminds us to be thankful, we are blessed indeed..

P.S. sometimes I feel you're so emotional :)

carole said...

the death stages start with denial and end with acceptance.acceptance means inner peace for the patient i guess...it is amazing how over and over again i see that the patients start 'comforting' their loved ones(who haven't accepted yet) at that stage.It is true Strength can take on many faces!

salam said...

May God grant all cancer patients enough will to fight and survive.Determination to win the battle makes a great difference .
Hareega,how do you know that he will only survive for 6 months?I know tat a lot of times the doctors give a certain span and the patient overlives it.Or is the boy not in a good condition to live outside such a center?haram!

lammoush said...

i have volenteered in the cancer center in jordan when i was in high school, n chose 2 work in the reception bcoz i admit i was too weak 2 hear the stories my friends told me, they tell the little girl a story and the next day shes not on her bed.
but we have 2 face this instead of hiding and saying: these tragic stories never happen 2 us.
there are alot of things u can join 4 a regular check up every 6 months 2 detect anything b4 its too late.
and in the industrial world we r living in where cancer is spreading, i think check ups are v. important.

and life goes on... said...

I like those posts of yours... it just makes me feel how blessed I am... there's nothing that matters more than having a good health!

and life goes on... said...

'because those people who are almost crippled by their disease and who would not take their next breath foregranted have hearts of thunder that makes them larger than life.' it's very touching... i love this post!

Luai said...

This disease and many others is what gets me up the morning and pulls me through the days, nights and weekends of long hours. We rarely get an opportunity to see and hear firsthand from those who benefit from the work we do, although unfortunately there are just so many.

These days the pharmaceutical companies are sometimes critizied as being money hungry corportations, but let me assure you we mourn those who succumb to these killer diseases and it's those who are still holding on, waiting for treatments that drives our urgency to push that much harder.

Hareega said...

raindrop you can't prevent yourself from being emotional when it comes to cancer.

carole unfortunatley some patients die when they are still in the denial phase, i had a 30-yr old patient with acute luekemia (M3) who died the next days she knew she had it from brain hemorrhage. She didn't even have the time to go thru the phases.

salam we look at the big picture and the oncologist can relate the patient's case to what's documented in medical literature and to his own epxerience. For example someone with cancer spreading to the brain and bones and liver and in whom the treatment failed would not live more than six months. Some patients with leukemia die one week after they get if it's not treated. Sometimes the doctors under-estimate the life expactancy by a few weeks maybe months but it's rarely ever more than a few months otherwise the diagnosis would be wrong.

lammoush most people who got cancer used to think "it qould never happen to me". It's a bit scary to know that one out of four people in america will get cancer in their lifetime. Jordan might soon catch up as we are changing our diet and life habits.

life-goes-on thanx a lot for the compliment ! hopefully you'll always stay in good health

luai criticizing pharmaceutical companies should not at all undermine the great efforts of pharmacists, doctors and all scientists who do their best to improve the cures for cancer. I criticize "the business" of pharmaceutical companies and the fact that their goal is making money.

Lina said...

I love such posts Hareega, I won't deny that it makes me feel extremely lucky to have been healthy so far, but also it grants me an insight on how life can be for others this very day.. This opens my eyes on how selective I usually am.. I (or maybe We) try to avoid anything disturbing, dis-comforting or that causes sadness, depression.. By reading your posts I cannot be selective anymore. I have to participate and feel compassion, I have to acknowledge that anyone can be taken away from me anytime. As dear as life is to us, as vulnerable as we actually are...
Bless you for the wrok you do, and may god keep us healthy and content.. AMIN

kinzi said...

Thanks,Dr. Hareega. Everyone of my relatives have died of one form of cancer or another, so this hits me hard. Talk about denial, the last words my mom said to me were: "Honey, just because Hospice is here doesn't mean I am dying".

I do my best to get every form of preventative lifestyle and testing, and although I am a person of strong faith there are times I fear that cancer will be my destiny. But rather than paralyze me, it makes me live each day with a stronger sense of thankfulness and calling to live it to the fullest.

If the time comes, hope I get an Oncologist like you!

salam said...

Yesterday I read in the paper about a breakthrough in lung cancer treatment which Glaxosmithkline(something) is developping which will prevent cancer from recurring after it is in remission(I don't know if I used the medical terms the right way)but I thought this was great news.It is supposed to be developped by 2007.

Hareega said...

lina... thanx a lot! we're lucky to be alive!

kinzi... hopefully you'll never have cancer. I tell my patients that one out of 4 people in the US will get cancer and the good news about it is that there's a 3 out of 4 chance that you'll never have cancer in your lifetime!

salam, to be optimistic i'd say that all the medications effective aginst cancer these days were once considered experimental medication. But at leats half of the experimental drugs end up in garbage. It depends on the phase of experiemnet if it passed thru the first stages of trial then it has a greater chance of working. Many medications have been tried in lung cancer some were very promising in the beginning and in the end they turned out to be a major disappointment!

Rubin said...


Had to say,

thank you for that beutiful post.

Hareega said...

you're welcome rubin