Losing The Battle

This week was a bad week. I told you last week that I’d had one off-day that week. One day where I just didn’t feel it. Something felt wrong. That day coincided with the death of a good friend of my parents. After more than a decade he had succumbed to his cancer. I got notified on Saturday. The funeral was two days ago. It felt like the world fell apart. He’s the kind of guy that’s always positive, always in the mood for some mischief, and generally interested in everyone. He meant a lot to my parents; I saw their world fall apart too. It broke me. To see all his friends being broken. To see his family (daughters my age) being torn apart.. Not from each other, fortunately. They’ve been -and still are- a very close family. They are so strong. They don’t deserve this. Their father and husband and my parents’ friend didn’t deserve this. Nobody deserves this, but they most certainly don’t.

This week was very hard for me; emotionally, psychically. Coincidentally, I was scheduled to work on the oncology ward. I could’ve changed, but I decided not to. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t let it stop me. And it was hard. This morning I had to present a patient case which would be interesting to tell the other doctors and specialists. On our ward there was a patient with lymphangitis carcinomatosa, which is pretty rare but also very aggressive; a disease that should be kept in mind when cancer patients present with dyspnea. While I was preparing the case, the patient got progressively worse, and that same night there was a talk with the family. They got bad news. Their father and husband wouldn’t have more than a few days or weeks to live. He was only 56. I saw his family being torn apart too. This morning, before I could even present his case, I was notified that he had died that very morning. His disease had progressed this bad in only three days. Although he was diagnosed with cancer (for which he was operated and now being treated with chemotherapy) in early Spring, his family almost hadn’t had time to say their goodbyes. There were maybe 11 hours between the bad news and his death. It was heartbreaking.

When I bring their faces back to memory, I feel my heart breaking again. I’m already tearing up again. I can’t express how much, how deeply I hate this disease. It destroys you and your loved ones. It eats you from inside out. And it’s almost unstoppable. It’s almost indestructible. It’s a life-sentence; it will haunt you till your (premature) death. It will rush you into destruction.

I realize that I’m very emotional because of what happened in my near surroundings, and that the people I see on the ward are very, very sick and often incurable. There are also cancer patients who survive and live long and happy and semi-healthy lives. I’m extremely happy that those people also exist. The diagnosis of cancer doesn’t have to be a death-sentence. But for many it is, and it’s a rough time till death. My heart goes out to those people and their loved ones.

And to my parents’ beloved friend: you will be missed. You are an inspiration.



  1. Hi there,

    I’m really sorry about your loss and the raw pain you’re feeling. I couldn’t imagine working in an oncology ward. I’m sure many people would think you’re doing something so rewarding (which you are), but the emotional magnitude and the fact you’ve been affected by cancer personally just reopens old wounds. Plus, no one is immune to the suffering and pain they see on the wards, no matter how long you’ve been exposed to it.

    I’m interested in hearing more about your rounds on this floor…


    Sunny and Take Back Teal

    PS – I wrote a blog post about why I hate cancer. You might like it – you sound a lot like me. http://wp.me/p2O04L-5G

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. Your words are spot on. I read your blog post, and I’m sorry to hear about your loss too.. One of the reasons this week has been so hard for me is the realization that it could have been my own father or mother. I cannot stand the thought of loosing them.. I know I will someday, but it should be natural, get what I mean? I’m only 24, I’m not ready to lose them yet. And to see the pain and grief of others, to see them lose their loved ones and be struck by helplessness (because you just cannot stop cancer), it broke me.

      My time on the oncology ward is over; it was quite enough. It was quite an emotional experience for me, not only because I lost someone to cancer myself, but also because I witnessed the story of others, of the man and his family I described in my blog post. It’s raw pain indeed.

      All the best to you too. It’s good to read that you got strength out of it.


  2. Hi Iris,

    I’m just thankful that you are insightful enough to see what cancer does to people – not just the patients, but everyone around them. That’s so good and unique of you to be able to internalize it like that. Your ability to do that is a source of comfort for those suffering.

    I am not sure I would be able to deal with that, either. It’s hard enough trying to build a movement and meet a lot of others who are fighting this…not hard in a bad way, but hard because I know their pain. For me, because I choose to be exposed to this, I use the pain I feel for them as motivation to keep going. One day, the pain will be gone for everyone because we’ll be able to catch cancer early enough to treat.

    Thank you so much for sharing this…I’m so glad to see how compassionate you are.



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