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On My Mind
August 19, 2019

Does It Ever Go Away?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
JAMA Pediatr. 2019;173(10):912-913. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.2797

Does it ever go away? In a decade of oncology practice, I have fielded this question or its equivalent dozens or perhaps hundreds, of times. Usually, patients are asking in some way about their prognosis, such as whether the current state of their cancer still holds out the chance for cure or life will ever return to the definition of normal it had on the day before the world turned upside down. For everyone, some of these conversations are more difficult than others. My own most difficult encounter with the question came not from a patient with cancer, but from my own 11-year-old son, staring at me with gigantic brown eyes over his bedrail in the pediatric intensive care unit of the hospital where I have spent most of my professional life, now bizarrely transformed into the place where our own family crisis was unfolding.

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