In my post on exceptional responders. I wrote that patients need to have hope to have a chance of being an exceptional responder. Yet in my last post I shared the story of a little boy who became the exceptional responder after his parents gave up hope. What does that tell us about hope?
Andrew Levy's parents had weighed these issues when they made the decision to stop all anticancer treatment and focus on quality of life:
- Without treatment, he would die but they could optimize his quality of life.
- With treatment, the odds of survival were long and the odds of everyone suffering was 100%
So they gave up hope of recovery.
Without hope and without taking the hope-filled action that would have optimized the boy's chance of survival, he recovered (for now). In retrospect the physicians now believe he survived because he did not take the action they had recommended. Paradoxically, the parents' giving up hope drove their decision that ended up saving his life.
As I highlighted in Talking about Phase I Trials, if patients choose to stop all treatment they are letting go of one hope: hope that treatment can help. They can still hope for recovery, if they want to.
As Cicero said, "While there's life, there's hope." The Levy's story points out that even when a patient lets go of hope for recovery, if recovery is at all possible (no matter how unlikely), the patient may recover.
Next: Hope and desire for certainty.