Articles of Interest This Week



TIME’s “How To Cure Cancer” cover – worst of the year? reminds us the number of times ‘cure’ has been used and over promised, and that the complexities of cancers mean that while treatments will continue to improve and become more effective, curing all cancers is not in the cards any time soon.

Novartis loses landmark India patent case on cancer drug is another illustration over the ongoing intellectual property disputes over drugs, and the difficult balance between incentives for innovation and public health and budgets.

And among the worst news for any cancer patient apart from faulty diagnosis is misapplication of chemo doses as happened to 990 patients treated or being treated in four Ontario hospitals (fortunately not mine) in Ontario cancer patients given incorrect drug doses.

Man captures wife’s heartbreaking cancer battle with photo blog outlines one family’s struggle with cancer and how they shared this experience to increase awareness.

Susan Gubar has a wonderful piece this week, Living With Cancer: Truthiness, where she writes about the delicate dance we often have with our medical teams about our condition, treatment, prospects and the like, and the preferences we have in terms of how much information we want. Closing quote:

Perhaps with certain (albeit different) subjects, we all end up not asking. Probably about certain (albeit different) worries, our oncologists simply cannot tell. Why not skip lurid coming attractions that cannot possibly be fathomed? With respect to cancer, maybe we all have to endure in the conditional tense of truthiness.

WebHealth and Wellness

A good post on health apps. What patients want from mobile apps boils it down to three things:

  • We will not use mobile apps that add to the time we spend caring for ourselves;
  • We do not respond well to nagging (I would nuance this to say that ‘nagging’ has to find the right balance between helping us be mindful without being irritating – hard to achieve but Fitbit seems to have found the balance); and,
  • We favor apps that are linked to (or associated with) our clinician (in an ideal world, yes, but secondary in my opinion).

An interesting commentary on communication styles in Marriage and medicine: Both are not exact sciences, noting how the doctor-patient relationship benefits from a more nuanced approach to decision-making than simply laying down absolutes, just as in marriage.

On the practical vein, Sodium, Hiding in Plain Sight, notes that 80 percent of the salt consumed comes from factory and restaurant foods, and offers some practical ways to reduce consumption, pending concerted industry-wide action or government regulation (as other countries like Finland have done but Canada unfortunately not given the usual nanny-state ideological concerns).

As always, Jim Salwitz captures the patient-doctor relationship well in Trust: Data verses Doctor, showing how in the era of Dr. Google, patients can become better informed and complement the experience and expertise of their doctor:

So, how does the data revolution affect the doctor-patient relationship and does it change responsibility? If both parties are open to opportunity, having a patient prepare in this way can improve the quality of discussion. Even if the patient’s Internet prep is not quite focused on the particular medical problem, it at least makes the patient familiar with the broad issues and language, which helps the doctor, with the limited time available, more clearly communicate. With this being the goal, both patient and doctor need to bend, a little. The doctor needs to welcome the data and the better basic education that online investigation gives the patient, and the patient needs to be aware that the doctor’s decades of experience cannot be replaced by a Google search. By finding a balance, better health is possible.

Who is responsible for the quality of medical care? I would suggest both the doctor and the patient and I do not believe this changed at all. Both must demand full commitment and responsibility from themselves, as well as the other. The data revolution underlines, more than ever, that medical care is a team sport. Only together, do we heal.


The Science of How Your Mind-Wandering Is Robbing You of Happiness provides a convincing demonstration of just how important living in the moment, being in the now, can be to happiness, from the Track Your Happiness project of Matt Killingsworth.

As someone who loves movies, need to note the passing about of film critic Roger Ebert. Lot’s of good articles out there by the best one I ran across is RIP, Roger Ebert: The Beloved Critic on Writing, Life, and Mortality, as it includes many of his own words (see also Macleans Brian Johnson’s Roger Ebert: An Appreciation for a good summary of his style and impact, and Roger Ebert Talks Movingly About Losing and Re-Finding His Voice (TED 2011), one of the better TED talks and a powerful demonstration of his power of storytelling, as well as how technology has made all the difference to keeping him a full and active participant – thanks Victoria for bringing this to my attention). His comment on blogging, although written from his perspective as a movie critic, captures something more universal:

My blog became my voice, my outlet, my ‘social media’ in a way I couldn’t have dreamed of. Into it I poured my regrets, desires, and memories. Some days I became possessed. The comments were a form of feedback I’d never had before, and I gained a better and deeper understanding of my readers. I made ‘online friends,’ a concept I’d scoffed at. Most people choose to write a blog. I needed to. I didn’t intend for it to drift into autobiography, but in blogging there is a tidal drift that pushes you that way. … the Internet encourages first-person writing, and I’ve always written that way. How can a movie review be written in the third person, as if it were an account of facts? If it isn’t subjective, there’s something false about it.

His terse comment on mortality is a classic:

We’re all dying in increments.


5 thoughts on “Articles of Interest This Week

  1. Debbie

    Andrew Griffith is an MCL survivor from Ottawa And author. His blog is great.

    Andrew. Debbie is a newly minted PhD Whose expertise and research interests are on Physician empathy, physician patient relationships, and had worked at Georgetpwn Med Sch


    William C. Arzt

    Booz | Allen | Hamilton

    One Preserve Parkway Rockville, Maryland 20852

    301.320.8237 (office) 202.497.4390 (mobile) 301.576.3882 (facsimile) @williamarzt

  2. Pingback: Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  3. Andrew, as I was passing around the link to Ebert’s Ted Talk a fellow AA member here in Paris sent me to his blog to read this post:

    He was a recovering alcoholic (30 years sober) and attended meeting in Paris – the same ones I attend today. As I read that post and others on his blog, I wondered if he found the AA toolkit to be useful (as I did) when he was going through his cancer treatment.

    As I go through my own journey I am compiling a mental list of people and questions that I never got around to asking when I had the chance. I’m adding Ebert to the list (Andy Sundberg is another and if there is an afterlife (something I believe in) I plan on going straight to these folks and starting up a conversation. Perhaps some might think this a bit morbid but, hey, it’s an interesting mental exercise while I’m still here and it gives me something to look forward to. 🙂

    • I do not think it is morbid to think about the kinds of questions you would like to ask people no longer with us. In many ways, you are having a conversation with yourself about things important to you in asking these questions, and you are also very much engaged in the present, with your young adult ‘frenchlings’, your writings, and your life in general.

      I suspect Ebert did draw on the AA toolkit, as we all draw upon previous experiences that help us adapt and cope. In my case, we had some really neat, bordering on crazy, executive training, that pushed us beyond our limits in exposing and understanding our internal dynamics that, sure enough, proved as helpful in the chemo ward as in government.

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