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Editor's Commentary on Facing Glioblastoma

 , January 18, 2019

In her piece, "Facing Glioblastoma: The Predator," Saumya Shah walks the fine line between personal and hospital life. In one moment she is transported from the rigid role of a medical student to a family member watching a loved one face cancer. Donning a white coat and being on the other side of the examination table for the first time does not equate immunity against facing discomfort, illness in our own lives, or in the lives around us. Yet we are surprised when it does happen. An oncologist finds out his father-in-law has lung cancer. A surgeon nervously fidgets and paces the hallway, waiting for her son who is getting an appendectomy. The hospitalist discovers that his month-old cough and fatigue turn out to be pneumonia. Does having disease knowledge lessen or worsen the burden of the disease?

This piece touches on the struggle with the idea of "comfort care," a term supposed to make both providers and patients relieved that there is no pain at the end of life. Yet the difficulty of saying goodbye and letting go, the burden that disease places on the family, is not alleviated by pain medications. Shah's writing takes us into the inner life of being both a medical provider, and a family member, as terminal illness enters the scene.

Esther Lee