We’re more likely to get cancer than to get married. This is a wake-up call | Ranjana Srivastava
Macmillan Cancer Support says one in two people will get a cancer diagnosis. Yet our treatment still focuses on the disease, not the person’s specific needs, says Dr Ranjana Srivastava, oncologist and author
“I need you to see this patient now,” a nurse whispers, her quiet tone masking a mountain of concern.
“I am an oncologist,” I introduce myself to the stricken stranger. “We haven’t met before, but you don’t look so well so I am going to help.”
For weeks, he has been in the grip of nausea, pain and insomnia. His six-hour wait in A&E culminated in being sent home. He has been bed-bound since, too weak to move, eat or drink.
“I am so sorry,” I offer, wondering for the umpteenth time how patients deteriorate like this before our very eyes.
Tears form and he shrugs.
“Dad just wants to feel better, he knows things are bad.”
My heart melts at the plea of his daughter, barely out of her teens.
“We’ve got this,” I reassure her. “He’ll feel better soon.”
The nurse, ever attentive, flicks the chair to recliner mode and catches his wrist. “You are safe,” she says simply.
At this, he dissolves into sobs that rack his whole body.
As I take in the heartrending sight of a grown, burly man reduced to the helplessness of a child, I try to imagine the affronts that have led him here. The patients differ but the underlying themes don’t – months of chemotherapy, failed drugs, countless appointments, perpetual uncertainty, endless waiting, lost income, tired relatives, disappearing friends and on top, the existential questions, “Why me? Why my family? Why anybody?”