I have heard lots of great speeches in my lifetime, but very few have left me feeling honored to have witnessed them. Last Friday, I witnessed an amazing speech. The speech wasn’t from a senator, CEO, or famous athlete. It was from a young patient who had just finished his radiation treatment.
Over the past month, I have been spending two days a week down at UMGCC with our Patient Navigator, Elizabeth Saylor. I absolutely love being there and connecting with the patients. One of the patients I met was a young man who was going through radiation therapy. When I first met this young man, he melted my heart. He’s had a rough life and nothing has been easy for him. Now he was faced with a cancer diagnosis; a head and neck cancer to be exact. From the beginning, his cancer journey has been anything but smooth sailing….
This young man began his cancer treatment and then hit a rough patch; he stopped coming to treatment and was walking around inner city Baltimore with a trach tube in his neck. He wasn’t responding to any of his treatment teams calls but Elizabeth was able to track him down and convince him to return to treatment. I met him a couple of weeks later as he was finishing up his treatment.
I sat down with him in the radiation waiting area and we started talking about anything and everything. We talked about his treatment, everyday issues that he was facing and who we wanted to win the super bowl (we each were rooting for Green Bay). We finished chatting and I said that I would see him soon.
A few days later, I was happy to find out that he was finishing up his round of radiation treatment.When a patient finishes treatment, they receive a diploma and get to ring a bell. Elizabeth and I planned on being there for his bell ringing. He worked really hard for this and we weren’t gonna miss it!
He came out of the treatment room and he was greeted by his family, doctors, and Elizabeth and I. We all went out into the main Radio Oncology waiting area so he could ring the bell. He was asked if he would like to say a few words. What ensued was the best speech I had ever had the privilege of hearing.
The speech wasn’t great because he wrote it down and practiced for weeks. It was moving because it came directly from his heart. It was unscripted and very real. He thanked everyone for sticking beside him and he laughed when he talked of the treatment team leaving “threatening” messages on his machine to get him to come back to treatment.
He rang the bell with all the force his body could give. By the end of the speech I had tears in my eyes and knew that I had witnessed something special.