Each week in clinic, patients and their family members will bring me cut-outs from newspapers or magazines or video recorded clips from a TV article – mentioning about the latest and greatest cure for cancer. They bring the article will such hope and expectation. Rightly so.
The problem is that 90% of the times, I have to break their hopes by telling them that most of these reports are experiments are done in a laboratory test-tube or an early phase clinical trial. The chances of most of these drugs reaching a clinic is low or even if they do arrive, it would be at least 4 – 5 years. Most of the patients who need that medication now, will never get to use it.
I understand that journalists have to publish interesting articles, but I really do hope that they would clearly state that this is experimental medication and might take several years to get to the clinic or something like that. Seems like a trivial issue, but it is a pretty big deal for patients and their family members who are struggling for anything new.
The hope lives on.
Christmas time is amazing. People try to be nicer. Families get together. Time for a short break and reflection on life.
It gets harder for people who have been diagnosed with cancer and are on treatment. I try my best to give people a break over this time, time to get away from the hospital setting, time to be with family and friends, time to recover from side effects of treatment, time to relook at life.
There are several people who are admitted to hospital and unfortunately cannot be discharged home for a variety of reasons. The idea is to give them a break for a few hours to have Christmas lunch at home.
The saddest thing is when people are just diagnosed with cancer and need more investigations and reviews; and so many services or people are on leave. These patients and families are upset and frustrated. It does not really help them, when I explain that waiting for a few days will not make a huge difference in the bigger scheme of things. They want something done now. I can understand them.
What about people who know that this is their last Christmas on earth? It is important to tell people to enjoy their time with families and loved ones, not just for the patient, but also for the loved ones who will cherish the memories.
I continue to be amazed at the generosity of my patients – who will gift me and the team with cards, chocolates, gifts and so on. There are people who take the time to thank other members of the team (who are forgotten otherwise) – cleaners, support staff, pharmacy, reception staff, etc.
I love this time of the year. It brings a joy to most people. It also helps us understand that Jesus is the reason for the season.
One of the most intimidating experiences is to be confronted by an angry patient and their family/friends. They might be upset about the long waiting time or the services or whatever. Many times it is the sheer frustration of the convoluted medical system, which really upsets the patient and the family. In the process of getting angry, the primary intention of sorting out the medical problem gets buried (to some extent).
I have found it quite effective to let the angry patient rant about everything. When they run out of steam, try and work through the problem.
There have been a couple of patients, who refuse to listen and only yell. It is not worth breaking your head with them. Ask them to leave, or leave the room yourself.
I have the right to work in a safe environment.