Dr. Wendy Harpham is a doctor of internal medicine, cancer survivor, and award-winning and best-selling author of books about cancer: Healthy Survivorship, recovery and late effects, and raising children when a parent has cancer. She is also a public speaker, patient advocate, and mother of three.
One of the many joys of the holiday season is reading the update letters that accompany so many greeting cards. And one of the great pleasures of my letter-reading joy is a glaring-yet-appropriate omission.
When patients with serious diseases are being cared for expectantly, they often scoff at the standard medical discriptors: "Watch and Wait" or "Wait and See." For them, a phrase that better captures the experience is "Watch and Worry" or "Worry and See," circumstances not conducive to Healthy Survivorship.
Imagine being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Now imagine being told by consulting physicians that you should not begin any treatment yet. Instead they advise you to "watch and wait." They explain that only if your disease progresses or causes other problems should you consider starting treatment.
Bobby Thompson hit the most famous home run in baseball history, one that spoiled the Brooklyn Dodgers remarkable pennant race. As he entered the dugout, his brother said to him, "This is the greatest moment of your life!" Immediately, he was depressed.
I'm having déjà vu as I pack my bags for a four-day trip to Miraval. Just like last year, my presentation notes and jump drive with my PowerPoint are packed alongside materials for a book chapter I'll be working on during the flights. Unlike when I posted "Miracle of Miraval,"
CURE is a superb magazine. Excellent writing and graphics serve its mission. As its tagline says, "combining science with humanity, CURE makes cancer understandable." As if that weren't enough, subscriptions are free to survivors and their caregivers.
Like many people this month, I'm reconnecting with old friends through our annual "holiday letter." One group of friends will always have a special place in my heart. Lauren Kessler* calls them "Temporary Friends."
You've survived cancer. Now a friend develops the same type of cancer and is making horrible decisions (in your opinion). She's declining conventional therapies for a treatable cancer or deciding against telling her children she is sick. What's a good friend to do?