Fear, anger, and loss should have burned me out. But it hasn’t.

Three decades at cancer’s bedside has taught me about fear. I have seen denial postpone critical diagnosis.   I have watched mistrust and anger yield poor choice. I have fought against terror that spreads malignancy by delaying treatment.  I have shared fury and devastation as horrid growths rip apart bodies, destroy families and end life.

After so many thousands of patients, so many wasted lives, you would think I would have given up. Fear, anger and loss should have burned me out. Have I not accepted that man’s fate is to suffer and die? Cancer wins. We lose.

The opposite is my truth. I have seen the glory that is man. I see great victories, miracles, every day. The courage of patients, friends and families. The sweat, work and brilliance of visionaries, scientists and great physicians. I see stunning breakthroughs and new horizons today and coming so quickly, in tomorrows near. The losses of a career have taught about courage and the infinite ability of man to conquer. The destruction of disease has taught that the enemy of hope is fear.

Once again and always, we face another disease. That societal sickness is the growth of hate. As with cancer, it is fed by fear. As with cancer, it is spread by ignorance. As with cancer, mistrust, and anger result it pathologically horrible decisions destroying dreams, opportunity and lives. Hate is a disgusting, oozing, bleeding, aberrant tissue that kills.

Hate feeds off ignorance. Like a depleted immune system, it grows when fear and confusion open lethal opportunity by suppressing reason, communication and trust. In those vital moments, when those who would choose love and community are too confused or scarred to speak, hate spreads its lethal metastasis. Hate wins. We lose.

However, I have seen the glory that is man, and I know of his courage to fight disease. A cancer found early is weak, flimsy and, deprived of cause and nourishment, no more than a few dead cells under the surgeon’s knife. Such is hate. Dreams, reason and courage, vanquish irrational fear; the spread of hate can be stopped and the horror it threatens, will fade.

When faced with cancerous growth, a healer has a calling and an opportunity to act. If the doctor and patient can overcome fear, and, with trust, work together, there is hope for cure. Faced with cancerous hate, we are called and must act. Sprouting from ignorant anger in a putrid soil of fear, hate grows until it threatens every child, every mother, every father, and every soul. Only if we can overcome hate, is there is hope for life.

James C. Salwitz is an oncologist who blogs at Sunrise Rounds.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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