Monday, November 17, 2014

Biases and Cancer

A few days ago Dr Rick Boulay sent me a tweet with a link to his TEDx Lehigh River talk "Cancerism:  Confronting The Biases We Share". ( Dr Boulay is one of #gyncsm's healthcare advisors.) I watched the video and found myself saying "oh, that's me" and " I get it." and agreed that yes, we(patients) need hope. Please take a few minutes to watch this moving talk.

I knew the pain and suffering cancer caused as I watched family and friends go through treatment and die from the disease. I carried biases about the disease. So it isn't surprising that those biases were apparent when I was diagnosis.

My sister would vomit after chemotherapy. So when I heard I had ovarian cancer and would also need chemotherapy, what was I worried about?  Vomiting. That was it. I told my doctor I would do chemotherapy as long as I didn't have to throw up. She told me not to worry there were many new drugs to alleviate the vomiting that came with chemotherapy. And she was right except for one time which occurred right before my severe allergic reaction to carboplatin.

When I was in treatment I would not plan more than a month in advance.  I was living in 3 week segments. On week one I had chemotherapy then I had 2 weeks off and started all over again. I wasn't even sure I would get the chemotherapy treatment on time. My platelets or my white count could be low and then everything was pushed back. I had no control of my time. There were days I never got out of bed so those days just disappeared. When the weather started getting cold and my husband suggested I buy a new coat I said "no!". Why?  I was afraid to buy one. I had heard about Gilda Radner and she didn't make it. Chances were I wouldn't make it either. Why would I buy a coat I will never get a chance to use. It took me almost a year after finishing treatment to be able to plan more than 6 months in advance.

All of us - patients and healthcare providers alike - have preconceived notions about the disease. Patients are afraid and feel vulnerable. I know I was. What can we do to offer hope?

Every Day is a Blessing! 



Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Dee. Your work as a positive role model for survivorship cannot be understated. I appreciate your sharing my work. I hope others benefit in confronting their own negative biases and discover how much cancer has changed us for the better. Until we life each day fully, we have squandered time. Let's balance the negative stereotypes and live each minute to the fullest.
Dr. Rick Boulay

Dee said...

Thanks so much Rick for your kind comment. Patients working with compassionate physicians like you can help change those biases.