Fighting or Not

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

OCTOBER 17, 2017

This is a continuation of an earlier conversation about fighting cancer and what does that mean and is it always the right response and what kinds of messages are we giving one another. Stimulated originally by John McCain's diagnosis and the immediate outpouring of both support and exhortations to FIGHT, the discussion has continued.

I am thinking about this because of this article from Medscape and because of a home visit that I made last week. I went to say good-bye to a wonderful woman whom I have known for more than a decade. She is dying of breast cancer and recently made the tough and wise and right decision to concentrate on comfort and QOL and time with the people whom she loves. By anyone's definition, she has most certainly fought the cancer for years with chemotherapy and radiation and clinical trials. It painfully became clear that the treatments were causing more harm than potential good, and she and her family decided to stop.

She is now comfortably settled in her sunny dining room. Yes, there is a hospital bed and a few other medical pieces of equipment, but it mainly looks homey and warm. Both of her young adult daughters have come home, and her sisters are taking turns visiting her. Her husband is around most of the time, and there seems to be a pretty steady stream of friends coming by. She has no pain and is only minimally, very minimally, confused. Mainly she has much less energy than her baseline, but she seems authentically content and serene. We talked about her life, our relationship, her hopes for her children. I was able to tell her how much I have loved and respected her, and it was a sad, but very wonderful, conversation. I hope, when my time comes, to be as graceful and brave as she.

Cancer: To Fight or Not to Fight

When Fighting May Not Be the Best Option

This summer's congressional battles over the future of healthcare consumed the attention of most healthcare professionals. And no single event received more attention than the dramatic appearance of Senator John McCain, who returned to the Senate floor days after undergoing surgery for glioblastoma to cast the deciding no vote on a Republican replacement bill.

 

He was greeted with applause by well-wishers of all political stripes and a Twitter storm of advice and encouragement urging him to fight the disease.

In a recent Medscape commentary, however, Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, a nationally recognized ethicist, questioned the wisdom of this kind of advice, leading to broad and passionate commentary.

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/885953