Ode to my oncologist

Cancer Narrative

Ode to my oncologist

C.A. Heykoop, DSocSci*

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.3747/co.25.3979

At the age of 34, I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma. I had just finished my doctorate and was ready to launch into the world. Instead, I became a patient. Shuttling from appointment to appointment, I felt my many identities fall away. In some ways, I even felt dehumanized. Yet, when I met my oncologist, that changed. His first question to me was “Tell me about you. Not your symptoms, but who you are.” I felt human again. I felt as if my perspective and insights mattered, as if I mattered. Through our conversation, I also began to feel as though I was an active agent in my own health, where in partnership with my oncologist and my health care team, we could navigate life beyond diagnosis.

This letter is for my oncologist, who looked beyond me as a patient with cancer and sought to see the many facets of me. Thank you!

To my oncologist:

Thank you for seeing me as a person firstand a patient second.Thank you for asking me to share about me;not just about my symptoms, but the many strandsthat define my life.Thank you for thoroughly explaining my options,and for giving me a choice in deciding how I wantedto respond to cancer.Thank you for not minimizing my experience,even though you have seen this many times before.Thank you for being highly skilled and competentin your medical training to best support patients.Thank you for acknowledging my sense of knowingwhat my body needed, despite my not havinga medical degree.Thank you for listening and giving me space to decide.Thank you for respecting my decisions and for seekingother medical opinions just to be sure.Thank you for treating me as a person with hopes,dreams, and wishes.Thank you for seeing me.I cannot tell you how much this meant to me.You acknowledged who I was and you made me feelimportant. You showed me that I was not alone on thejourney and that you were there alongside me.Thank you for showing me your own humannessand for seeing mine. I am forever grateful.Yours truly,A fellow human living with cancer


I have read and understood Current Oncology’s policy on disclosing conflicts of interest, and I declare that I have none.


*School of Leadership Studies, Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC..

Correspondence to: Cheryl Heykoop, School of Leadership Studies, Royal Roads University, 2005 Sooke Road, Victoria, British Columbia V9B 5Y2. E-mail: cheryl.1heykoop@royalroads.ca

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Current Oncology, VOLUME 25, NUMBER 3, June 2018

Copyright © 2019 Multimed Inc.
ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)