Sometime during the 1990s, while I was practicing at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., I was asked to see a diplomat from one of the Middle Eastern countries. He was an educated and worldly man who had a throat cancer that required extensive surgery and post-operative radiation therapy. Just before the actual operation, I met with him and his wife in the bed-holding area, normally a hostel of heightened anxiety. As I approached the bedside, the couple greeted me with pleasantness and an extraordinarily relaxed demeanor – no doubts, no hesitation, only a mellow countenance in each. I remarked how calm they seemed. The man said “We are devout Muslims, doctor, and I have put my life and your skills in the hands of God. Once that was done, I stopped worrying because I know he will take care of me, and will guide you.” I remember this vividly because it was so definite and sincere. He really was fine with both the process and the inevitability of an outcome; essentially he had turned his fate over to Allah. I envied that intensity of faith under such important and scary circumstances. Continue reading “Guest Columnist Dr. Roy Sessions: Spirituality and the Cancer Patient”
This is the sixth in a series of columns on the doctor/cancer patient relationship by Seabrook resident Dr. Roy Sessions, MD, and Fellow of the American Council of Surgeons.
Although less frequently then in previous years, cancers today are sometimes managed by the “occasional cancer doctor”. However, today’s diagnostic and therapeutic “standard of care” is the cancer team that is associated with a cancer center; and within the team, a multidisciplinary approach is ideally used in which the territorial interests of the doctors are subordinated to that of the patient.
Not too long ago, cancer management was less standardized (if at all), and not infrequently a primary care doctor who diagnosed a tumor referred the patient directly to a surgeon, to a radiation therapist, or to a medical oncologist. Where the patient started in the referral system had a lot to do with what treatment was ultimately employed. This is not to say that the treatment that followed was necessarily wrong, but the process did not lend itself to cross-fertilization of ideas between specialties; and additionally, the game plan–i.e. the treatment strategy–was inconsistent. In cancer management, nothing trumps a game plan in importance. Compare this concept to starting a business with or without a business plan.