Over the last thirty years, about every decade I’ve found myself in a cancer center waiting room--first in 1984 with my husband, in 1999 with my father, and now this year with my mother. Last week, I accompanied my mother on her regular visit. It was a busy day in the clinic, and as I looked around the filled waiting room, I began to notice something quite different from the first time, nearly 30 years ago, that I was there.
Thirty years ago, and even in 1999, the cancer center waiting room was unmistakable. Its patients looked different than those in other waiting rooms, with their bald heads and pale, masked faces. Today, that is not the case. It was difficult to separate the patients from those who accompanied them.
My waiting room observations affirmed the progress we are making. The crowded waiting room was a reminder that so many more people are surviving cancer, and even when our doctors cannot cure the disease; innovative targeted therapies are keeping it in check. The patients there provided silent testimony to the work of our brilliant scientists and clinicians. They pay tribute to the brave patients who came before them and paved the way for this progress by providing tumor, tissue, blood, and other samples for study. My observations from this waiting room filled with bright faces and full heads of hair, while not scientific, are evidence nonetheless that the new era of personalized, targeted treatments are working.