Difficult times.

Cancer patients are fighting two wars, not one anymore. A battle that is personal, and one they fight with us. 

Cancer and COVID-19.

Different times.

I walked into the room looking at her from behind a face-shield and covering my face with a filter. I felt like myself but she was scared. My patient was visibly frightened. I was a policeman in a riot. I was not Mo. She did not recognize me. With visitor restrictions she was alone no husband for support, no mother either. She started to cry. This is not the usual way my patients greet me. 

Your scan is fine I said. That did nothing to relieve her fear. I talked and talked, I engaged, I pulled at every muscle in my brain to find a way to make her feel cared for and loved. I asked her to call her mother. She resisted. She was afraid that calling her mother would elicit a fear that something was wrong. I asked her to still call, reluctantly she did. Immediate relief set into the room once her mother was on the line.

I saw many things in this moment. I saw a frightened patient, frightened by me; and frightened for her mother. I saw love and isolation; courage and surrender; I saw bonds that are covalent and connections that are elusive, when broken they destroy the person facing the cancer war. We must go above the barriers that have been placed before us to deliver the intimate care we now don’t have.

 I am sitting at home now. 

 We did not stop. Cancer providers of all kinds, the front line to helping the patients through the visit, the many precautions now being implemented to make sure they stay safe. The many different layers of vigilance we have to be aware of.  It’s an amazing group that is filled with resolve, bravery, and kindness. 

 It’s that kindness, that still does not feel complete for that patient fighting this battle alone. That lonely patient sitting in a room filled with fear, that is the dread we all feel now. That we will die alone. That feeling is permeating all of us.

Death has never been such a communal affair. As a community, we stand with you. Our collective patience, compassion, and tolerance of this will get us through these very uncertain times.


8 thoughts on “Community

  1. Words can be powerful. Thank you for your sharing and caring. I’ve also recently lost a loved one to cancer during this period and while the publicized general sentiment is one of community, “in this together”, words are not as powerful or true as actions. Your actions and shared feelings speak volumes on your pure intent. While I understand some precautions, not being able to be with a loved one during hospice care and limiting visitations without proof of efficacy seems cruel. I hope as more is learned that greater balance can be achieved in these covid inspired precautionary practices. People need contact and interaction for health whether pre-term infants, youth, adults or elderly.

    1. Your words here resonate deeply. I’m sorry for your loss. I believe we need to do better – the relationship we have with our patients is precious. The relationship you have with your loved one is irreplaceable. I hope we do learn, and never repeat our mistakes.

  2. Your words are beautiful along with your caring and compassion. Thank you for taking such good care of my husband , Larry, who passed in November and supporting me. Deb Starr

  3. Thank you Dr. Mo for a beautifully written blog sharing your thoughts in these challenging times. Our gratitude is deep for your compassion, scientific knowledge, and ultimate concern for those you care for! Most especially the most precious gift you offer is your unselfishness and humble nature, always putting other first! May your heart be blessed with a touch of hope and optimism today! So thankful for all you and your colleagues continue to do!

  4. Thank you for sharing your insight and the compassion that is needed now more than ever .

  5. Thinking of all of you – patients and medical staff. While we are no longer engaged in the battle, my thoughts are with everyone there at the oncology unit.

  6. So wonderful Mo that they have you as there doctor. We are lucky patients to have such a caring and compassionate person who is fighting the battle along side of us. I love the University of Iowa because they care to give us the best in healthcare and also the right doctors to treat are diseases. To my wonderful doctor of science I applaud you for your dedication in this fight.❤️ I would not want it any other way.👍🏻
    Claire Barnhouse

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