Cancer seems to be one of the diseases which cannot be uttered without a trace of compete terror. Perhaps this is because it is so familiar to us- 1 in 2 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer in their life. Most of us, then, at least knows, or has known someone who has cancer, and has seen the devastation it can cause. I, however, lucky enough to be not be in this majority, have grown up only hearing about cancer through books and television. It first came as a shock to me then, on my work experience in palliative care and an oncology ward, seeing how cancer can leave a person so vulnerable.
As I stepped into the room, I instantly felt that I was disrupting something so massively personal and private that it was insulting for me to be there. The patient was laying on the hospital bed, writhing in pain, her skin gaunt and jaundice- a classic sign of her terminal pancreatic cancer. There was a bed on the floor next to hers, and sat on it, her husband- elbows resting on his knees, and hands holding his weeping head. Bizarrely, I found it equally distressing- seeing a full man completely broken, and a woman delusional in pain.
It seems dismissive of me to use such intense suffering as a lesson; horrible even to think that this experience heightened my interest in oncology. However, it has. Oncology intrigues me both as a science, and as a potential to support people in some of the most important and terrifying moments of their life. As my interest grows, I’ve done more research.