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Cancer Care Chronicles
November 12, 2020

Hope Shattered, Hope Restored

Author Affiliations
  • 1Erick Peter Person Children’s Cancer Center, Essentia Health Duluth Clinic, Duluth, Minnesota
JAMA Oncol. 2021;7(1):29. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.5191

I once received a gift from a patient. It was a square ceramic tile, and in the center a hand-painted shoot rose up, bursting into a euphoria of gold. The background was green fading to gray-blue sky, and carefully painted in the corner was the word Hope. It sat on the bookshelf in my office for years, moving from time to time to accommodate another gift from a patient or a drawing from one of my children.

One morning, in a spirited discussion with a colleague, I threw open my office door too hard. The door struck the bookshelf and, before I could react, the Hope tile fell and shattered on the floor. I stopped mid-sentence and stared. All that it symbolized flooded back to me: the frightened teenaged girl with a new sarcoma who endured surgery, radiation, and cycle after cycle of chemotherapy; the endless complications and relentless pain that took a heavy toll on her mental health; her enrollment in a chronic pain clinic where she remained for the better part of the next decade; the laughter and tears we had shared over the years.

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