Updated: Feb 7, 2020
We are please to publish our first WCD short story submission!
At the start of this year we made a call for creative writing submissions on the theme of cancer, and we have been moved by the beautiful stories that we have received. Thank you to our contributors for sharing your writing with us, it is a privilege for us and our readers.
Today's story, written by Gloria Shani Kabare, is a non-fiction account of a medical student's journey in learning about cancer. Thank you Gloria, for an animated piece of writing and an uplifting outlook on the future of cancer care.
CANCER: A Medical Student's Perspective
By Gloria Shani Kabare
“We may win the battles, but cancer ultimately wins the war.” This was a statement made by one of our lecturers as we sat listening keenly to that morning’s lecture. At that time, I could not bring myself to agree or disagree with it but as I settled down to sleep at the end of that day, I could not help but think critically about it. Of late, I had been finding it increasingly difficult to read the cancer chapters in my pathology textbook... I would get some kind of palpitations as I read through the prognosis at diagnosis and statistics of the 5-year survival rates of different cancers. More often than not, I would heave a sigh of relief when I discovered that the 5-year survival rate of a cancer was more than 90% but develop a tense gut-feeling for the cancers with poorer prognoses.
Cancer, as you know, can develop in any organ in our bodies which technically means that no matter what kind of anxiety I felt reading about it, I simply could not run away from it. A lot of scientific progress has been made in identifying the genetic changes and risk factors that could lead to cancer development. Better diagnostic modalities have enabled early diagnosis and better treatment outcomes. However, as I went to the wards, the hope assured by modern diagnostic measures seemed dim in a majority of the patients. It may be because a greater number of the cancers diagnosed in my community are in the advanced stages. I felt sorry for patients as they broke down when the doctors delivered the news to them, and I could not blame them for feeling helpless. Cancer has robbed my
country of many prominent and celebrated public figures, more so in the recent past, who despite spending so much money seeking treatment, eventually lost the battle. Despite many success stories of cancer survivors, cancer is viewed as a death sentence. High remission levels, metastasis or resistance leaves many patients physically, financially and spiritually drained.
It hits differently when cancer affects your loved one or yourself. Finally, it dawned on you that what you read in the texts is not just theory but a harsh reality and what was once empathy for others now becomes extreme fear. Fear that the worst of outcomes could befall your loved one. And this right here is the problem – fear! As I kept thinking about that statement made by my lecturer, I knew one thing: Cancer may have won many wars, but so has science. I had to be brave enough to ask the
difficult questions and follow through to seek answers with a scientific mind. We may not have all the answers today, but by working courageously through continuous research, one day we will win the wars. With that assurance, I turned the pages to the cancer topics and read bravely for all my future patients.