Monthly Archives: September 2009

Patrick Swayze

My blog yesterday about the miracles of survivorship focused on the happier news about the impact of cancer treatment.  The passing of Patrick Swayze reminds us all that the stories too frequently don’t have the ending we would like.


Even acknowledging that grim reminder, there is still much to be celebrated about what this man meant to so many not only as an actor, but as a cancer survivor as well.


Mr. Swayze made no secret about his diagnosis, and made no secret that he was going to do whatever it took to beat his illness.  He knew the odds were against him, but that didn’t take away his hope or his resolve to continue living his life.


I didn’t know Mr. Swayze personally, or even much of his reputation.  To me, he was a well known actor who had appeared in several highly regarded films.  But it soon became apparent that he was more than an actor.  He was devoted to his family and his friends.  He was a part of his community.  There was indeed much strength and meaning behind the celebrity façade.  His illness deeply touched … Continue reading →

Breast Cancer And Health Reform: Check The Numbers

A recent dust-up over an ad that tries to make a simple statement out of complex statistics shows how difficult it is to have meaningful discussion and understanding in a sound-bite world when it comes to health care reform.


The ad, launched by the Independent Women’s Forum on August 18th, comes to the conclusion that because the five year survival from breast cancer in the United States is 83.9%, and the five year survival in the United Kingdom is 69.8%, 350,000 women in the United States “may not have survived if the US survival rate were that of Britain.”  The implication is clearly stated: “(T)hat should give American women serious pause before reflexively touting the glories of a government-run health plan.”


If only the numbers truly represented what we know.


The basis of the argument was an article that appeared in the British medical journal Lancet Oncology in July 2008.  The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control in the United States and Cancer Research UK, both highly regarded public health and research institutions.  Their research was focused on trying to make rational sense out of various … Continue reading →

The Miracles Of Survivorship

A couple of conversations and a news story over the past week have led me back to an appreciation of the miracles and the problems of cancer survivorship.


The messages are mixed: we have accomplished truly remarkable advances in cancer treatment, but those advances come with unanticipated and very real side effects.


A former patient of mine tracked me down about 10 days ago.  He wanted to talk, and let me know about the recent events in his life.


The gentleman had Hodgkin disease at a young age, just when he was beginning to look forward to establishing his career and starting a family.  The disease was treated successfully with radiation therapy, and his course was—in general—uneventful.


Eventually I moved on and we parted ways.  In our conversation, I learned that he was successful in his career and his life. Then disaster struck unexpectedly. 


Playing a sport he enjoyed, he had a cardiac arrest.  The wonderful news in this part of the story was that a cardiologist was nearby, and my former patient was resuscitated.  Talking with him a couple of weeks after the event, he had undergone surgery … Continue reading →