To the doctors, nurses, techs and child life specialists who choose to work with pediatric cancer patients, I have one quick question: What the %*&@ is wrong with you???
You know there are easier ways to make a living. In fact, I would be hard pressed to find a more demanding way to earn a paycheck.
Sure, there are other professions with long hours and stressful conditions. Not one includes telling parents their children might die.
Perhaps no one mentioned this in medical or nursing school, but there are fields where the chances of watching an infant vomit and defecate blood are next to none. Podiatry comes to mind. Urology, perhaps.
Or, hey, you know what? F—k medicine altogether. As far as I know, investment bankers don’t have to repeatedly stick a needle into a shrieking toddler to start an IV in impossibly small veins.
Yes, other people deal with anger on the job. (Does anyone like a telemarketer?) But in no other profession is the vitriol as relentless and undeserved as it is for you.
Sometimes it comes in the heat of the moment: a parent snaps after weeks, months, even years of watching their child suffer, and turns on those trying to help.
Other times, it comes from the realm of the Perpetually Righteously Indignant, those terminally wise fools who enjoy spouting off to anyone who will listen about how oncologists love nothing more than a new diagnosis or a relapse because it means more money in their bank accounts.
There is a special place for people like this. I’ve heard it’s very warm.
And then there are those who believe doctors are part of a conspiracy to keep the cure for cancer under wraps because, as the logic goes, if you cured cancer, the medical industry would lose out on a valuable source of revenue.
Look, I love me a good conspiracy theory. Is it possible that pharmaceutical company execs are conspiring with each other to keep a failsafe cure for cancer from coming to the market? I dunno. I have some serious reservations about this theory but then I didn’t spend all those years watching The X Files and not learn a little something about the possibility of the implausible.
But if this is the case, do I believe the doctors and nurses working with pediatric cancer patients are “in” on it?
Oh hell no.
Because it would take one hell of a monster to subject children to the misery and uncertainty of chemotherapy and radiation if there was a magic pill that could quickly and painlessly make all the bad stuff go away.
What I would suggest for those who think caregivers are in on the Great Cancer Caper is to spend 24 hours on the job with a pediatric oncology doctor or nurse.
Change the sheets of a toddler who has just thrown up for the tenth time in an hour. Listen to the screams of a 5-month-old whose chronic chemo-induced diarrhea has left his bottom covered in sores. Comfort the parents whose child just died in their arms.
Then come back and tell me if you think there is any amount of financial compensation that could make this worth it.
But back to you, oncology types.
What gets me about you people, is that you choose to live the way most people can’t.
Most people get to exist quite happily outside of the pediatric cancer bubble. Before my daughter was diagnosed, I was one of them. Like everyone else, I thought of kids with cancer only when an ad for St. Jude’s came on the TV, or when watching old episodes of Highway to Heaven. (I don’t get out much.)
These often saccharine depictions, which are still too overwhelming for some, don’t even begin to capture the horror of pediatric cancer.
You live the reality.
You spend your work hours in the trenches with these children, witnessing more pain and suffering than any human should have to. You spend your down time walking or hiking or mud-running to raise money for cancer charities. You celebrate the victories. You cry at the funerals. You honor the birthdays of those who will never grow up.
It takes one hell of a person to do that. I mean, the words “bat” and “s—t” come to mind but that doesn’t really capture the high regard in which I hold you maniacs.
All I can say is, on behalf of all the families that have been or will be affected by pediatric cancer, thank you. Thank you for choosing to do what you do, to put up with what you put up with.
Because your lunacy makes it possible for cancer families to keep going.
Y’frigging nut jobs.