An interesting play on words as one thinks of the fight with Breast Cancer. As a treating physician of this dread disease for the past 30 years I can attest to the fact that I have been hooked on Hope. Hope for a cure. Hope for a better life for the patients that suffer this disease. Hope for peace of mind. Hope for relief of the mental anguish and pain of loss, of beauty, of love, of life, of future memories that all hold precious of spouse, children and grandchildren. Yes, the vicissitudes of life that follow the diagnosis of breast cancer are protean, replete with a tumult of emotions. The hopeless stare of unbelief that strikes the heart of the patient told to have this disease is no stranger to my gaze. I see it in their eyes and feel it in their hearts, as tears well up and fear sets in. I see the families’ rally, the spouses dig deep for that love and support, not knowing the fear themselves but having their own battles with their own feelings. What can I do are the plaintiff requests of patients, spouses, families and friends? How can I heal the pain and suffering?
HOPE! Yes, hope is the message, the answer, the panacea that gives stability to the situation. Just as the statement implies the addiction to HOPE is a requisite. When one is addicted to the proposition of hope and none is to be found behavior is frenetic as every possible treatment is explored and rendered in the desire and quest for that illusion of hope. He who would proffer no hope would mortally injure the soul. Hopelessness is incongruous with healing on every level, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Surgical care is based on hope; physical recovery without hope is lost. A story of hopelessness comes to mind. I was honored to have treated a lovely lady of declining years. She was brought to the hospital “Baker acted” by her daughter who out of desperation sought to help her ailing mother. The large foul smelling tumor that consumed her breast had been neglected and at the daughter’s protestations her mother would not seek help in resolving the problem. Careful history taking led to the discussion that this lady had lost all hope with the loss of her husband. Seeing the gravity of the tumor that consumed her breast, she concluded the cancer would, “grow into my heart and take my life, fulfilling my hope to reunite with my husband”. I found myself precariously in the position of trying to heal someone who wanted no part of it. The solution was hope. How could hope care for this patient. Her only hope was to die and reunite with her husband. Knowing that I could not cure her of her disease but knowing I could improve her declining weeks, months or years. I assured her that her fate was sure, she would die. But in the meantime I would be able to rid her of the terrible situation from which, she and those who attended her suffered. Furthermore, if she allowed me to operate and remove the tumor she, and those of her family and friends around her, could enjoy the remaining days of her life, fulfilling her hopes and those of her family.
With that understanding all were in agreement that I operate. The surgery was done the tumor removed and the recovery was uneventful because the measures of hope were fulfilled. The story could not be complete without the final vignette: the pathology report. The resident staff who had not been a part of the original discussion informed me that the pathology was back. I invited them all in as I gave her the news. I said there was some good news and bad news with the report. Having braced herself for the news I informed her that sadly the entire tumor and all the affected lymph nodes had been removed but I was confident that she would still die of the disease. Elated she threw her arms around my neck and with the hug and kiss on the cheek thanked me profusely. The residents and I exited the room. The residents shaking their heads in unbelief to what I had told her replied “only you could get away with that Dr. Cox”. Epilogue: Her declining years until her death were spent at John Knox Village attending classes, dancing and swimming. She remained happy and grateful as did her family to her dying day. Hope was given and hope was restored and healing was the end result.
Hope is based in truth and truth is based upon knowledge. Knowledge is the product of study and investigation. Application of new technology and keeping track of the outcomes all leads to an understanding of the knowledge required to administer hope. Hope in the vacuum of knowledge and truth is vain. False hope is indeed no hope at all. Administration of Hope is like a drug too little or too much without sound knowledge is deleterious to Faith which is the product of Hope. Without Hope there is no Faith and without faith in those who attempt to administer hope no healing of mind, body or spirit will exist. To that end it behooves all who seek to provide hope to be able to demonstrate their diligence in collecting and maintaining the data of those that they treat to demonstrate that the care rendered is the care promised. Our progress is in your hands your support and donations to this cause are proof of concept. You too can be hooked on hope , providing the basic requisites that hope can be perpetuated, restored and administered to all in need.
Charles E. Cox, MD