CHOOSING HOPE DURING THE FESTIVE SEASON

One of the ways I fulfil the self-imposed commission of preaching the gospel against cancer is to look at the cancer awareness calendar. This helps me systematically cover the information that is so needed out there. There are slight variations between calendars with some months having more cancers to cover than others. Initially I had pressure to cover all the cancers in one month but as time has gone on I feel vigorously covering one whilst acknowledging the others may prove to be more useful. Of course this realisation came from the lovely feedback I receive from you my regular readers as you probe for more information on one issue or the other so please do continue writing me.

Earlier in the year I had noticed that December lays bare with no cancer awareness activity. I disapprovingly looked at it but I do understand the need to wind down and rejuvenate before the New Year.  

Cancer does not take a break; neither does the suffering of our beloved patients and their caregivers. Though I must note that in all hospitals I have worked there is a tendency of families who wish to go on holiday for the festive season to repeatedly push for admission of their sick relatives. 

As a person whose profession knows no holiday I get stilted by this practice. My thoughts are if this person is so sick that they cannot accompany you on this holiday or have come to you because they are too sick to take care of themselves then surely they are not going to be with us on earth much longer. Have you taken time to think about it like that? A holiday could surely wait. As a Christian nation we must remember that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ. Imagine if you invited us to your birthday party and we all came with expensive gits for ourselves and paid little attention to you the host! I am winking at you because the guilt trip is a deliberate one I’m inducing. Relax. We all have our philosophies, just using my right to express mine.

In the same breath though on my Santa wish list is to have a facility in Zambia where people can bring their cancer patients for periods specifically like this one. Caregivers also need a break from the long journey of taking care of a cancer patient and I guess Christmas time may provide that relief. However, it would be nice to have it done in an orderly and respectful manner. Such a facility would not need to be a hospital and not exactly a hospice but more of a home manned by people specialised in cancer care. This means it would have comforts that a patient normally experiences in their own environment. The worst feeling for our cancer patients is to feel institutionalised. I guess this type of facility would also give the cancer patient a break and the privacy they need. So I am putting it out there for any Father and Mother Christmases to establish such a place for our beloved.

Anyway as I was looking at my cancer awareness calendars one caught my eye because in the December month it had the phrase ‘choose hope’. Now this is because that’s the name of the organisation that sells cancer memorabilia to raise funds for the fight, but it was a befitting suggestion. December should be Cancer Hope month. As with most cancer movements three ladies in 1999, two who had a diagnosis of breast cancer, started it. They made bright buttons to hand out in the chemotherapy room as they knew it could be gloomy and decided to turn this into a business to raise funds for cancer. Unfortunately one of the founders lost her battle to cancer in 2003. So when I saw the choose hope I decided to relook at my trusted dictionaries so I can hold the word I am asking my brave patients to feel, tangibly in my hands. This is what I found.

Hope /hōp/

noun

  1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

“he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information”

synonyms:aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, design
  • ARCHAIC

a feeling of trust.

verb

  1. want something to happen or be the case.

“he’s hoping for an offer of compensation”

synonyms:expect, anticipate, look for, be hopeful of, pin one’s hopes on, want

Our trusted (or non-trusted – depends on one’s experience) friend Wikipedia sums it up like this ‘Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.’

I think ‘hope’ is a good word to have around cancer to make it uncomfortable. What do you think?

As I have eluded in previous articles a lot of the cancer battle is played out in the mind. The patient must have a conviction to win but you must also be loaded with a lot of information to make the right decisions. Winning DOES NOT equate to cure. Remember that. It is much more.  Cancer patients become like family to us and one of the reasons I love and respect the oncology nurses I work with, is that they absorb these patients and really make them family. The burden of the cancer clinic that they carry is astronomical. Many a time I have had my oncology nurses come up and say ‘Dr Lombe pay particular attention to Mrs or Mr so and so, they are losing hope.’ That helps to tap into the inner energy of the patient and revive the fighting spirit. We don’t always win but it we do what we can.

So dear readers I don’t want you to accuse me of being a Scrooge or the doc who stole Christmas but as we carry out our festivities, lets not forget our dear friends and family suffering from cancer as you always do. Before putting together your donation visit the cancer clinic and find out from leadership what will actually make a difference. Donations are good but they need to be made in a context that serves a purpose. And to the patients especially my Zambian patients I am sending each one of you cyber hugs through out this month. You are not forgotten.

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