If you ask a cancer survivor what HOPE means to them, their answer may not necessarily be ‘a CURE.’ It may be ‘feeling well enough to attend a family event in two months,’ or ‘accomplish a task within the week’, or  ‘have a pain-free moment’.

After my presentation at Grand Rounds, I had a tour of the cancer center at Johns Hopkins (The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center). I was told the story about Martin Abeloff, director of the center well-loved by all for his 15 years. One month after retiring, he was diagnosed with cancer and died within six months. Everyone who knew him was deeply heartbroken for the loss of knowing how this well-deserved man would enjoy his life after retirement.

Until this time the cancer center did not have a program to honor cancer patients. There was a concept that the focus should be on research and the patients in the hospital, not patients who HAD there turn, whether they survived or not. Because so many people needed to honor the memory of Dr. Abeloff, in 2008, they held their first cancer survivorship event. Hundreds of families who had a loved one treated at the center participated. They had no idea about the power in honoring cancer survivors, not just for the person, but for the emotional well-being of everyone who loved them.

I was deeply touched by the power of the story itself and looking at the petals on the sunflowers with words of what HOPE means to different people….’change,’ ‘laughter,’ ‘faith.’ It was an opportunity for people to remember the courage, the acts of kindness, the admirable traits of those who undergo the challenge of cancer therapy. The story was NOT silenced. Nowadays, we don’t whisper the C  word. We are proud to have an opportunity to share the family story with others.

Many cancer research centers have a deeper understanding about how the patient remains the strongest link between current research and modern therapeutics. Grand Rounds is a vehicle to educate healthcare professionals about evolving research which may be outside their core practice.  It usually takes place first thing in the morning. After my presentation and then my tour, I was ready for a second cup of coffee….at the lobby coffee shop called, Grand Grounds. Gotta love it!

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