Understanding Fear and Death

Can we get it without going through it ourselves?

In his regular column in Oncology Times, Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center Chair Brian Bolwell, MD, FACP, explores topics critical to leading cancer centers in today’s healthcare environment. His latest column shares how his own experience with a serious illness informs his view of patients with cancer.

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“I thought about dying a lot, and what life for my family would be after I died. I was not paralyzed by this; but up until then—even while taking care of so many cancer patients who did not survive—the reality and inevitability of my own death was compartmentalized someplace way back in my brain, not a part of my conscious thought or everyday life. Then after the illness, the compartment door sprang open and it became front and center. You think about your illness and mortality every day—multiple times a day. Like breathing, it is always there and happens without thought. In some ways it was liberating as I made choices on a different timeline with my own, new sense of prioritization. We splurged on family vacations. I thought about what added value more than my previous duty-bound tasks. But the issue of death, my death, was there all the time.”

Read the full column here.