My Cancer Patients

by Carol A Westbrook

When I finished my residency in 1980, I chose Medical Oncology as my specialty. I would treat patients with cancer.

I am often asked why I chose oncology. Many people fear cancer, and do not even like talking about it. How can you deal with all the pain and death,  I am asked.

My answer is straightforward–it’s the patients. I enjoy working with cancer patients. They are some of the bravest people you will ever meet. And they are honest. There are no malingerers in cancer. When a cancer patient complains about a stomachache, headache, nausea, or worsening pain, you can be sure it’s real. It is so gratifying to me, as a doctor, to provide a patient some relief, some hope, and even, sometimes, a cure. And they all have a story to tell, if you take the time to listen.

And we had the time, back in those days. Medicine was not as rushed as it is today, in the race to get patients through the clinic visit quickly, as it is today. The clinic visits were often a half hour or more, because we oncologists took over the role as their internists, managing their diabetes, hypertension, depression, and just about any other problem that today would get referred to their primary care physician or a specialist. Read more »