Being (a) Patient – Colonoscopy, Happiness, Lion King


Dear Travel Buddy!

Great to see you have stopped by to check in – always appreciate the company! This weekend, my family (thank you!) assembled a few pieces of furniture….which inspired me to write about ‘patience’….! 

When my patients express concern that their medical care is moving (too) slowly or their recovery is taking longer than expected or desired, I often ask them if they know why a patient is called ‘a patient’. Usually this results in an inquisitive, speechless gaze. The word patient is derived from Latin:

Adjective: Able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.


Noun: Person receiving or registered to receive medical treatment.


 The precise meaning of the medical definition of patient continues to be inconsistent, likely as the medical field and society continue to evolve. As such, a renowned medical journal had even devoted an article in 1999 (!) to the discussion of the pros and cons of finding a new word for patient. The article’s conclusion was that the massive undertaking of changing the word ‘patient’ to something else (requiring it’s own research, implementation, and distribution efforts) is likely not worth the diversion of time, effort, and resources away from providing and innovating patient care.

A similar discussion is ongoing about the ‘cancer survivor’ label. For some, the term cancer survivor may allow recognition and unity. For others, it may result in discomfort, because they don’t feel that their journey was heroic enough or because the label may allow division among survivors or represents survivors’ guilt or even a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder trigger

The reason for your impatience may change over time:

  • Initially, when you are newly diagnosed (and undergo testing, await treatment plan decisions and insurance authorizations), being impatient may be a reflection of a fear of the unknown, lack of control, or feeling overwhelmed. Starting cancer therapy is usually the best remedy to provide some relief. But in the interim, it may help to know that only a few cancer types and situations represent a true medical urgency/emergency. Even though anyone would like to have their cancer treated as soon as humanly possible, for the majority of cancer diagnoses, it is more important to be strategic. The quality performance of a number of strategically selected and rapidly evolving imaging, laboratory, and pathological tests will facilitate informed decision-making and the creation of a personalized cancer treatment plan that aims to optimize benefit and minimize harm. Furthermore, it also may help to know that there are many official organizations that hold cancer centers accountable for administering cancer treatments in a timely manner (e.g. the Commission on Cancer in the USA).  
  • Next, as you transition from the active treatment phase into the post-treatment phase, impatience may become more reflective of a frustration with the slow or incomplete recovery process, a need to gain more control over your life (and survival), or a desire to catch up on life that was abruptly put on hold for the cancer treatments. With respect to a frustration with delayed/incomplete recovery/healing, I would like to refer to a previous post on acceptance. The instinctive urge to catch up on lost time could be interpreted literally, since some cancer treatments can be really intense and prolonged. But it can also be interpreted figuratively: the cancer experience may have increased one’s awareness of their own mortality and ignited an urge to get certain things done ‘before time runs out’. It may help to know that your priorities will often change after a cancer diagnosis, allowing you to live closer to the essence of your life, catch up with (and perhaps even surpass) your pre-cancer trajectory! 

Please try to be more patient with yourself…..this is not a sprint, but a marathon! And I sincerely hope you will feel comfortable enough to ask your health care providers for help, if you feel ‘your mind is becoming your worst enemy’ and leads to dysfunction. There is no need for shame or embarrassment in this current time and age. You are only human – everyone has a breaking point!   

Together we stand strong! Please find below a few things for education and entertainment!

Learn and Think:

  • Health maintenance alert! The American Cancer Society recommends that most people – those at average risk – start regular colon cancer screening at 45. People with an increased risk may need to start screening before age 45. Please discuss this with your health care providers! 

Live and Feel:

  • This non-profit organization, Action for Happiness, is devoted to making the world a happier place by providing various insightful tools and resources that promote the 10 essential keys to happier and more resilient living (for free or low cost).  
  • The original Lion King movie from 1994 is one of my favorites. Its music and story themes (circle of life, the good prevails) resonate with me. [The Lion King 1 1/2 movie is hilarious, which tells the Lion King story from the perspective of Timon and Pumbaa]. This weekend the Lion King movie’s remake premiered – I didn’t get to see it yet – did you?! I love the Circle of Life song – click here for the video, see below for the lyrics! 

“Circle of Life”, partial lyrics

From the day we arrive on the planet
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Keeps great and small on the endless round

It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life

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