“Be near me when my light is low ... And all the wheels of Being slow.”
- “In Memoriam” Alfred, Lord Tennyson
A friend asked, “What is the difference between Cure and Healing?”
As a cancer surgeon, I was perplexed and challenged by the question. I eventually responded with two clinical vignettes.
The first story is of a talented Senior Executive Assistant for an important local businessman. Her years of smoking caught up with her and she developed a large tongue base and tonsil cancer. Her surgery and radiation therapy were completely successful and her cancer was controlled. Nevertheless, she was overwhelmed by depression. She continued to smoke and drink, refused to go out in public, quit her job, and rejected her friends. She agonized over her appearance and speech. She refused to return for follow-up visits or counseling. I eventually lost track of her.
The other story is of an immunocompromised woman I first met several years ago. Her first cancer took a portion of her mandible and tongue. She did well for several years, but developed a series of increasingly dangerous additional primary cancers and recurrences. All through the experience, I saw her regularly, and we suffered together. When she finally died of her cancer last year, I agonized. Until, that is, I received a letter that she had prepared in her own hand prior to her death. “Please don’t feel that you failed me,” she wrote. That message of comfort and gratitude was emotionally wrenching, but nevertheless, welcome and still treasured.
One person was cured but not healed. The other was healed but not cured. We aim for both Cure and Healing, but the difference, I believe, rests in the relationships.
______Previously published in the MCW Cancer Center News
||The following is feedback received for this blog:|
both 4 letter words that I have used inner changeable.
After reading your article, I am moved to see a difference in perspective. I am a 13 yr breast cancer survivor who is launching a non-profit organization- "Creating 4 a Cure" (c4c) We especially want to define our purpose. Your article will help us. thank you for all your wisdom, your caring and blessings to you fo continued success.