Lessons Learned from a Patient
As a genetic counselor in the Division of Reproductive Genetics, it is not very often that I see a male patient. This past week, however, I had the honor of seeing a man for cancer genetic counseling. I consider it an honor because this man’s character was so genuine and the feelings he expressed to me were so raw and from the heart, that I walked out of our session with a lot of positivity about life and about what family means to me.
My patient was a 61 year old man who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. He came to see me because men who carry a BRCA mutation have about a 10% chance of developing breast cancer and his doctor thought BRCA testing may be warranted. Immediately following his diagnosis, he called his daughter (a 34 year old mother of two small children) to tell her the news. In a panic, she visited her gynecologist who found a small lump and diagnosed her with stage 1 breast cancer. She is currently being treated and is expected to have a good prognosis. When recounting his story, my patient said to me, “I am so thankful to God that I have cancer. If I wouldn’t have found my cancer, my daughter would never have checked and she would have left behind a 4 year old and a 1 year old. I am so lucky.”
Lucky to have cancer? I have never heard that one before. But those words struck me. I know it was not his decision to develop cancer, but when he was dealt those cards, he coped quite nicely. This man was able to reflect on the one positive of his horrific situation. In life, we are handed the short end of the stick from time to time-but we must stay optimistic and look however hard we need to find that glimmer of hope and positivity. I think that I told everyone I have seen since then about my favorite patient. If only we could all be that selfless…