Written by on 6/1/2014 6:15:00 AM
Dr. Darrel Ross is a radiation oncologist at Community Cancer Center South.
Today is National Cancer Survivor Day. It’s a day when not only do we honor all those who've won their battle with cancer, but those still fighting. From their first treatment to their last, cancer patients are strong and brave. That’s why all of our patients at Community Health Network are survivors each and every day.
It’s gratifying to be part of the cancer care team at Community Health Network and to see so many examples of how to live life well amidst cancer. As a radiation oncologist I find myself reflecting on many of my patients and recalling both the fear and humor that comes my way every day.
Some patients come to their first radiation therapy appointment believing it’s an open pit of fiery flames. What many do not know is that radiation therapy has drastically changed, and has many safeguards. Today, we are pinpointing the beam of radiation with great precision. Our goal is to avoid damaging healthy tissue while eliminating the cancerous cells.
It takes a lot of expertise to perform these treatments, and at Community we strive to personalize EVERY treatment plan. That means we combine surgical, medicinal or radiation treatment with integrative health therapies such as mediation, yoga, and music therapy for a customized plan. We also host events like trunk shows with FigLeaf Boutique to provide breast cancer patients with mastectomy fitting, scarf wraps, colorful compression leggings and arm wraps, and skin creams.
In the radiation oncology department we see some of our patients daily, so we develop a personal connection and conversations pick up from the day before. That’s why we try to make our environment comfortable and have little kindnesses waiting each time the patient comes in. Often it’s a bit of personalized humor, music or their favorite silk robe waiting.
This career choice - for me - has become an experience of joy, not sadness. Some think of cancer a negative way, but on a spiritual level, I am reminded of my purpose to heal, even if that patient moves on. I’ve seen it time and time again; there is quality of life after a cancer diagnosis. There can be contentment.
I’m reminded of an elderly woman; seven years ago she was 88 years old and had metastatic bone cancer in her back. The outcome was not hopeful for this woman. But she looked at me and said, “Dr. Ross, I’m going to be OK.”
That simple statement reminds me daily that it’s about the journey. Real healing is often hard to see unless you get to know your patients well. I believe she felt at peace and had the time she needed with her children. We can be experts at our craft and with technology, but we also need to be sensitive to the journey and that is what we strive to do at Community.