On Christmas Eve, the cancer community lost a remarkable physician, researcher and caring human being, Dr. Jimmie Holland: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/04/obituaries/jimmie-holland-who-cared-for-the-cancer-patients-mind-dies-at-89.html?emc=edit_th_20180107&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=44005038
I met Jimmie (and her husband, James) a few years ago through my participation in the American Association for Cancer Research Scientist-Survivor Program. She was a kind and compassionate woman who was one of the first to notice in the 1970s that oncologists and cancer researchers were striving to understand the characteristics of the disease itself but not the emotional strain that a cancer diagnosis brings. These days, the notion that patients would be treated without considering their psychological condition–namely, their fears, anxieties and sense of extreme loss–is unfathomable. We have people like Jimmie to thank for the shift.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in 1993, I truly couldn’t believe the emotional rollercoaster that I found myself riding. While all mortal beings know, theoretically, that our time on this earth will come to an end, the thought comes barreling home when diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease. Especially at 29.
Those emotions still dwell in my gut, and they arise whenever I find myself reeling back into a cancer state of mind.
Extreme loneliness, the sense that I, alone, had been thrown into a horrifying experience.
Fear of the new reality, physically and psychologically, as I began an arduous treatment regimen.
Uncertainty about the future–what kind of life lay ahead, and if briefer than anticipated, how I might find peace and fulfillment in the time remaining.
Jimmie Holland understood those feelings and devoted her career to giving them voice. She was in all ways an advocate for patients and a beacon of honesty for physicians who needed to hear that treating cancer requires acknowledging the human component.