The war on cancer began in 1971 when Nixon signed the National Cancer Act. Since then, the war rages on. MD Anderson vows to make cancer history. Walking fundraisers urge people to join the fight, one step at a time. People who win the battle against cancer are survivors and those who don't—did they not fight hard enough?
Sometimes I wonder if I have multiple personalities. I love oncology. I love learning about cancer: how it invades, how chemotherapy and targeted therapies treat cancer. When I worked on the blood and marrow transplant unit, I felt like a war hero administering the conditioning chemo before transplant. In the infusion center, there always seemed to be another drug to be tried, and I would never want to tell the patient otherwise. But as oncology nurses know, sometimes there is a fine line between treating the cancer to help the patient, and ultimately causing more harm than benefit.
So I also find myself hating oncology. I hate the way the treatment makes patients feel. I hate how the side effects of treatment can kill patients instead of the disease itself. I hate the look in patients' eyes when they are fatigued and nauseated. At those times, I love palliative care. I love hospice. Because it's no longer about the disease; it's about patients and families.
How do I find a happy medium in nursing? How do patients find a happy medium between cure and comfort? Does that happy medium even exist?