It was summer of 1991 when my mother was diagnosed with cancer at age 48. It all started as a lump in her neck and after a few tests she was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes.
I had just graduated from medical school. I thought I was all prepared to take care of my mother. Medical text books cannot describe what she endured over the next several months. She was started on chemotherapy and I often stood there helpless watching her struggle through the many side effects of chemotherapy and cancer itself. Unfortunately, in those days there were no strong anti-nausea medicines or enough supportive care medicines to combat chemotherapy side effects. I remember awakening every time she ran to the bathroom in the middle of the night vomiting profusely. She would also wake up in the middle of the night with drenching night sweats and pain from the cancer. She was hospitalized for most of her treatments and had very little rest. Unfortunately, despite the best available care at that time, she eventually succumbed to the cancer.
As an oncologist today, I am so thankful that my patients have the benefit of so many advances that have taken place over the past two decades. We now have multiple strong anti-nausea medicines. It is rare to see anyone vomiting and nausea is very well controlled with the currently available medications. There are also many strong pain medicines and supportive care treatments available to all our cancer patients. In addition, today over 99% of all treatments are done as outpatient in the office and many people continue to work full time while undergoing treatments.
I will always be very thankful for what my mother taught me through her experience with cancer that no oncology text book can ever describe! She not only helped define my career as an oncologist, but has also inspired in me a strong commitment to fight this illness with each of my patients. I also want to thank our patients from whom we continue to learn daily not just from a medical perspective, but I believe they have also helped us gain a better perspective on life in general.
We celebrate National Family Caregiver Month every November. Many thanks to each one of you who have helped care for your loved family member or special friend with cancer. Thank you for your love and kind support to them and for walking closely with them as they face this challenge. Your voluntary help, love and care has made this walk so much easier for your loved one and will always be cherished.I want to encourage every caregiver to please use all available resources to help you with this walk since it can often be a stressful and emotionally challenging period in your life. It is very important for you to stay strong so that you can effectively help your loved ones. Please make sure to get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise and stay current on your own medical checkups. In Athens, we are very thankful to have Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support with excellent trained staff that can guide you and offer support to you. Also, American Cancer Society is a great resource and has trained staff that can guide you toward multiple other resources available for patients with cancer and their caregivers. Lastly, don’t forget to lean on your health care workers. We are committed to support you and your loved ones every step of the way together as a team!
Priya Rudolph, MD, PhD
Dr. Priya Rudolph, a graduate from Yale University is an experienced hematologist/oncologist with Georgia Cancer Specialists affiliated with Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (www.gacancer.comhttps://www.gacancer.com). She has offices in Athens (ph 706-369-4478) and at the Cowles Clinic in Greensboro (Ph 706 454-0159). Georgia Cancer Specialists is a top 10 privately owned practice and is a national leader in advanced cancer treatment and research. Its physicians and staff offer many clinical trials and state of the art personalized care to each individual patient.