“‘Those are my images, aren’t they?’ I asked the radiologist….The radiologist’s response was remarkable. ‘Would you like to meet your enemy?’ she asked.” With these words, Amy Berman of Health AGEnda, a leader in nursing and geriatrics who has recently been diagnosed with Stage IV inflammatory breast cancer, introduces us to one of the unsung heroes of palliative care, the radiologist. You should read her most recent blog post for a moving and thoughtful presentation of palliative care done well, from primary care provider to oncologist to, yes, the radiologist.
As someone who lives with a neuroradiologist, I can attest to the important role these physicians can play in the humane care of people who are learning about their deadly diagnoses for the first time. Particularly in mammography, the radiologist often meets with the patient. At the first patient encounter, the breast imaging expert is frequently placed in the difficult position of knowing that a complete stranger has cancer. In Amy’s case, the radiologist took her question seriously, ushered out the other professionals in the room, and walked her through her illness.
This resonates with what two UCSF mammography faculty members have told me, that patient care is one of the most important parts of their jobs. To hear them speak with passion over the dinner table about the importance of supporting their patients (Yes, good radiologists don’t think of these strangers as images; these strangers are their patients!) is heartwarming. It should remind us that, in palliative care and geriatrics, we have a larger network of allies than we might realize. This posting is both a thank you to Amy Berman for opening our eyes to her experiences as a woman living with cancer, and a thank you to the radiologists who contribute to the compassionate care of other women walking the path of a cancer diagnosis.
By: Theresa Allison