part of my job is giving bad news. it goes with the territory of doctoring. and of all the bad news i give (i consider diabetes bad news) nothing is tougher than telling someone they have cancer. i really can't think of any other single word that can turn someone's life upside down so entirely and so succinctly. i don't even like saying the word. the "cer" part makes me think of slicing knives. sometimes i catch myself going to great lengths just to avoid saying it, using stand-ins like growth, mass, tumor. these are marginally better. and i know once i say that c word, my patients will hear little else. but i try very hard to do this part of my job right, face to face, with plenty of time, because i feel that if it isn't done right, then the trauma of the diagnosis is heightened. before we end our conversation, i try to give my patient the sense that we have a plan, or if not an entire plan, then at least a next step.
but as difficult a conversation as it may be, if someone has to tell one of my patients they have cancer, i want it to be me. not the surgeon, for instance, that left the message, 'it's cancer, call me back.' on my patient's answering machine this week. and anyway, how could i possibly complain about having to give someone bad news? after all, it is not me that is being diagnosed with cancer.