By Kevin Kelley
When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it can be difficult to “keep calm and carry on,” even for doctors.
Jon Prescott, a radiation oncologist, acknowledges he let anxiety briefly get the better of him several years ago when his wife, Noreen, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, even though he knew objectively the disease was treatable and the diagnosis encouraging.
“I got an F-minus as a caregiver,” Prescott joked.
Prescott, the medical director of the Northern Ohio Regional Cancer Center and a staff physician at St. John Medical Center, was the guest speaker Saturday evening at Westlake Relay For Life’s ceremony honoring caregivers.
The American Cancer Society fundraisers are known for their survivor laps, at which survivors of cancer walk around an athletic track. But this year’s Westlake Relay, which took place at the city’s recreation center, featured a caregiver lap. Following the lap, balloons were released in honor of those who provide support for those fighting cancer.
Prescott, who graduated from Brown University School of Medicine and completed a surgical internship and oncology residency at the Cleveland Clinic, said his experience with his wife provided him with a inside perspective on the importance of the caregivers to patients battling cancer.
“I’ve seen this from both sides,” the radiation oncologist told West Life.
Prescott had advice for both patients and their caregivers.
When a diagnosis of cancer is made, Prescott said, it’s often in the early stages and curable. This means there is the luxury of time for the patient and family members to study all the treatment options, he said.
Secondly, Prescott acknowledged that the period of treatment is a stressful one for both the patient and the caregiver. During this time, he said, it’s important for the caregiver to maintain good communications with the treatment team, especially oncology nurses.
“Nurses are the heroes in cancer care treatment,” Prescott said.
Finally, in those cases that prove to not be treatable, hospice care should be considered when necessary, the doctor said. It’s never to early to discuss hospice care, he said, and the word “hospice” shouldn’t be perceived negatively.
Ten teams, consisting of 102 members, participated in Westlake Relay this past weekend. Their goal was to raise $32,000, a hefty increase over last year’s figure of $22,000. Donations can still be made online at RelayForLife.org/Westlake.