"The purpose of a [clinician] or any human in general should not be to simply delay the death of a patient, but to increase the person's quality of life.” - Patch Adams, MD
If you distilled the sweetest goodness of medicine, you’d get the Bay Area Cancer Connections. Twenty-five years ago, a patient and a surgeon dreamt up a community center for breast cancer patients, survivors, and families. It has now expanded to include those affected by ovarian cancer as well.
The newly diagnosed embarking on treatment are given comfort totes: bags filled with lavender sachets, tea, a hand-knit hat, handwritten notes of strengthen and encouragement.
There are walks along the water just for caregivers to restore themselves with one another. There are support groups for metastatic patients; there are zumba, yoga, and healing touch classes. When zumba’s in session upstairs, you can hear a happy parade through the ceiling.
There are Death Cafes where people can speak frankly about dying over cups of coffee. There is a pro-bono medical information specialist to help explain pathology reports. There is a library of every cancer book you can think of that you can borrow from, as well as wall-to-wall binders of the newest journal articles and pamphlets.
There’s a boutique of fashionable prosthetics: wigs, camisoles, scarves, and boobs of all sorts. There are lectures from clinical experts, community events, and conferences. Think of Harry Potter’s Room of Requirement, but for breast and ovarian cancer.
It is a place wherein someone can enter, and give the details about themselves and their diagnosis (if they have children, if they are taking Tamoxifen, if they had or are having surgery…) and then, if they wish, be paired with a matching buddy to walk the walk with them.
To discuss what having a bilateral mastectomy was actually like, or what you need and don’t need to tell your boss about your medical leave, or what it was like to tell their kids.
The things clinicians don’t usually have answers to. Community and friendship.
Personally, I’m a boutique kind of gal. Maybe it’s silly, but I bet it’s what a good church feels like for believers.
It’s a special feeling when you meet a woman overcome with grief over losing her hair, and she goes for the awesome raspberry beret.
Then there’s a fashion show set to Prince, and you see a little confidence in her eyes when she waves goodbye wearing it. The kind you find in a secondhand store!
What’s sweeter than that?
It’s the most beautiful place in the world, and this is your invite. They are always looking for volunteers.
About the Author: Iva Petrovchich
Iva Petrovchich is a second year nurse practitioner student, and completed the MEPN program. She hopes to work in oncology after graduating in June 2019. Find her original article here.