Oncologists Don’t Know Everything

It is important that patients with cancer do not lose hope, regardless of what their clinicians say, explained one survivor.

Doctors don’t know everything.

“I recommend that you quit your job and travel the world.” This is the advice the resident physician gave me as I was lying in a hospital bed preparing to celebrate New Year’s 2023 with my family.

I had only learned a few days prior that, at the young age of 47, I had stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. My mind was blasted with emotions after hearing this statement from a physician who had been caring for me during my weeklong stay with a chest tube connected to my left side. Thoughts of dying and leaving my kids without a mother filled my head while I was trying to process my future. With him being a physician, you trust that what he says holds truth. After all, they have completed medical school and have earned the coveted MD degree.

What I needed to remember as a patient with terminal cancer is that doctors don’t know everything, especially residents at a teaching hospital. This resident was unaware and uneducated about the morbidity and mortality of the different types of lung cancer. He didn’t know that some lung cancer patients can live a normal life for a decade or more. He didn’t learn in school that if a mutation was identified, there are targeted therapies that you can take, by mouth, that are extremely effective at stopping the cancer cells from mutating. He didn’t know.

He also didn’t know how much his statement consumed my mind for several weeks. I was angry at him for providing advice that was off the assumption that because my cancer had spread, my life was ending. He didn’t have all the facts. So, why make a statement like that?

I often think about contacting him and sharing an update on my year-long cancer journey. Three weeks after I was discharged from the hospital, I learned that I did indeed have a driver mutation and it was identified as ALK-positive disease. I began taking a targeted oral medication, Alecensa (alectinib), on Jan. 27, 2023. I also chose to have 21 sessions of localized consolidative therapy (radiation) on my primary lung tumor in July.

In September, I got the report that every cancer patient prays to hear. My oncologist shared the amazing news that I currently have no evidence of active disease in my body. The tumors in my brain, liver, adrenal glands and bone are gone. My primary lung tumor has substantially shrunk and is inactive. I continue to work full time and am even able to travel when the job demands it. My job offers more than health insurance and a good salary. It offers friendships and support for me and my family.

I explored Greece this summer with my family and walked miles and miles through the café-lined streets of Athens and Crete. This fabulous trip was not taken based on his advice but was brought on by me living my life to the fullest! I love deeper and forgive faster. I am thriving and plan to live my best life for many years to come. There is hope with cancer! Do not let anyone tell you differently — even a physician.

This post was written and submitted by a CURE reader. The article reflects the views the author and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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