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Saturday, June 21, 2008

He has resumed athletic activities: Attitudes toward one's own cancer

Brian Wickman, a manager at a luxury hotel in Manhattan, needed to refrain his loved ones' language. Two years ago, an oncologist told him there was little published data about the aggressive tumor on his ankle because it was so rare and because "no one wants to publish when all the subjects die." A month later, Brian, then 30, a skier and a rock climber, had his left leg amputated. He was also found to have thyroid cancer. He reacted severely to chemotherapy, and spent two months in intensive care.

His awestruck friends would say, "You're so brave, I don't know how you do it; you're my inspiration." "They would put me on a pedestal," Brian said. "That doesn't allow me to be human an in pain, angry or depressed."

His email messages reveal a spirit of great equanimity and eloquence. He now wears a prosthesis and has resumed athletic activities, and will attend graduate school in the fall for a joint degree in social work and divinity.

But in his darker moments, he refused to construct a front. He would write bluntly about feeling grumpy, frustrated and afraid nobody would date him. "This is not a call for pity responses," he would add. "Just let me be where I am."

Advice to friends and families of cancer patients: Try to just let them be where they are.

Read another story about the role of hope.

Thanks to Jan Hoffman for the source article in the NY Times of June 1.

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