texas oncology more breakthroughs. more victories
Some of our cancer centers may have important notifications found on the location page. View More Important Notifications x

Finding Hope and Inspiration in the Challenge of Cancer

Joseph Litam, M.D., Texas Oncology–McAllen

Publication: Healthy Magazine, McAllen

Chemotherapy, radiation, countless blood draws and tests. It’s all part of the cancer experience for many patients. While many aspects of the cancer journey can be unpleasant, some patients have found cancer gave them an unusual gift. The gift of inspiration.

The cancer journey of some patients inspired them to set a personal ambitious goal – take up dancing lessons or run a 5K, marathon, or even a triathlon. Others were inspired to channel their cancer fight into something that helps others. Several of our patients have started non-profits to help other patients, such as raising funds for research or identifying a niche to improve comfort or the logistics of care for patients.

Examples like these beg the question: Why do some patients see their cancer as an opportunity to make a positive difference – perhaps the ultimate in making lemonade out of lemons – while others endure the disease but feel angry and confused, and wondering why cancer happened to them?

For most of us, the mere mention of the word “cancer” arouses a range of intense and complex emotions. Not the least of which are panic and fear of the unknown. Yet, I think you truly would be surprised to know how often we hear our patients and former patients describe their cancer experience as certainly challenging, but also an inspiration to accomplish something significant.

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 1.6 million new cancer diagnoses in 2016. Each of these patients needs support and compassion, regardless of their unique personal reaction to facing cancer. There’s no right or wrong “way” to have cancer.  Every journey is personal. While some find strength and purpose, inspiring courage and positivity in their cancer journey, many will experience depression and feelings of social isolation and disconnection.

Some patients will get through treatment quietly. Perhaps their perspective may change, but they’ll wish for nothing more than to leave this chapter of their lives behind. Others will find that beating cancer is transformative, and view their diagnosis as an impetus to accomplish all of the things they never before believed they could. Can you say bucket list?

Some will find unimaginable strength in their journey. They’ll go on to impact on the lives of others by founding nonprofit organizations, creating extraordinary fundraising initiatives, or achieving a personal ambition.

As physicians, it’s our job to be open and honest with our patients regardless of their approach to their illness. We cannot and should not tell someone with cancer how to feel, react, or behave. But we have seen many uplifting, poignant examples of lives impacted positively through the unique experience of cancer – relationships mended, families drawn closer together, new and lasting friendships sparked. We’ve seen first-hand that cancer gives pause to patients, their family, and friends to re-evaluate their lives, to find fulfillment and purpose in new and meaningful ways.

Of course, this is not to diminish an iota the painful and difficult reality that our patients endure in their fights against cancer. But at this time of year, we are reminded that there is also tremendous hope. Our patients never have to go it alone. We offer support programs and resources, and our staff and medical teams truly care about the whole patient – that includes emotional health and well-being.

The gift of inspiration can come from unexpected places – even in the fight against cancer. We should all encourage and support all those who found that surprising gift and help them achieve their goal.

Joseph Litam, M.D. is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–McAllen, 1901 S. 2nd Street in McAllen, Texas.


Related Physicians

Related Cancer Centers