Dr. Rudolph Willis: I am Dr. Rudolph Willis, the Chief of Medical Oncology at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
A medical oncologist is essentially a medical doctor as opposed to a surgeon. Of course the surgeon uses tools and he performs surgery. The medical oncologist uses medicines to treat disease and difficulties associated with disease processes.
When I think of Nicole, one of my patients, I think of words and actually where she neatly popped into my mind and no doubt in the mind that most people who meet her for the first time Nicole is equivalent to sunshine. Nicole is equivalent to enthusiasm. Nicole is the kind of patient who says, “Doctor, I am okay if you are okay”, and I am okay, “And so we are going to do this, we are going to get this done and it’s going to be fine”.
When you see a patient you are seeing a person, you are seeing the human being and that patient becomes Nicole; that patient becomes someone with loved ones, someone with a life that has affected them in the host of ways, someone who has interacted with other human beings, someone who is interacting with you and will inevitably and should evoke the kind of emotions that reminds you taking care of an individual who has great worth and that indeed you have an opportunity to take care of one of the most precious things that we have on this earth, and that’s another human life.
You would think that you would intentionally lose touch with that humanity and that’s the protective tendency that we physicians have but particularly as an oncologist, because as we well know, on more times than not we are dealing with a serious illness with serious and immediate consequences.
I think actually it’s just the reverse. I think that humanity grows as you see how patients go through that process and how they survive their disease and how they overcome their disease. I have a young patient. She is very young actually and this patient has had a very difficult time because she is a healthy, athletic patient who unfortunately now has this diagnosis and she has had a great difficulty with not only accepting that but the fear level seem to obliterate if her capacities stay focused to pursue the course that we need to take to eradicate her disease.
And at the peak of that difficulty I looked her in her eye and I reminded her, “This is a ship. This is a ship on sea and in the midst of a storm and you are the captain of this ship. You have a key to the engine to make that ship go where we want it to go, but I am going to keep a copy in my pocket the safe key ring. So if we lose one we have the other and we are secure.”
Cancer can be a wake up call. Cancer is a potential metal on the wall after the battle is over. Cancer is not equivalent to ‘the end’. Cancer is a source of grace. Cancer is all these things and more.