I heard some shocking news this week. A survey on the mental health of doctors. Mental and emotional health really. Because it seems that 1 in 5 medical students and 1 in 10 doctors suffer depression. Many contemplating suicide.

Not surprising really, is it? Working long hours, sometimes double shifts, carrying the worries of those they care for. Surrounded by ill health, disease and death. And the difficult emotions that come with it. Let’s face it. Most patients are unhappy customers. And doctors rarely see the healthy ones. Anyone would be hard pressed to stay happy under those circumstances. Unless of course you had coping tools.

And of course cancer staff are the most affected. But that’s just the doctors. What about the nursing staff and other health professionals? How do the young ones that do our scans cope when they discover lumps during routine check ups?

And I wonder how different it would be if medical staff knew of all the things they can do to help themselves. And all the things we can do to help ourselves. Yes, we may have been diagnosed with cancer. And yes, that comes with a certain degree of dependence on outside help. But I wonder if they would feel more hopeful, more positive if they knew more about all the extra things they can do to support us. You know, those things that don’t appear to be given much emphasis in medical school. The importance of mindset. The importance of hope. The importance of coping skills to diffuse the stress.

And I often wonder with the benefits of their new knowledge, how their hope would translate to even better care, supporting happier outcomes for both their own health and ours…


As I ate breakfast one morning, I overheard two oncologists conversing. One complained bitterly, “You know, Bob, I just don’t understand it. We used the same drugs, the same dosage, the same schedule and the same entry criteria. Yet I got a 22 percent response rate and you got a 74 percent. That’s unheard of for metastatic cancer. How do you do it?”

His colleague replied, “We’re both using Etoposide, Platinum, Oncovin and Hydroxyurea. You call yours EPOH. I tell my patients I am giving them HOPE. As dismal as the statistics are, I emphasize that we have a chance.”

William M. Buchholz M.D.

Chicken Soup for the Surviving Soul

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