The Comedian vs Cancer

“Fuck Lance Armstrong! He sets the bar too high for other cancer patients.”

It was still before Armstrong was exposed, when 12 years ago today, on the advice of my Improv coach, the legendary Brian G. Smith, I went to the theatre to see Daniel Stolfis Canadian Comedy Award Winning One Man Show Cancer Can’t Dance Like This.

It’s not an overstatement to say that Stolfi’s show – and especially the “Fuck Lance Armstrong” vitriol – inspired me to commit to the wacky life of patient advocacy the last dozen years. The singular power of his performance, and his unabashed perspectives, takes you inside his relationship with Cancer as a young adult.

Funny thing, the audience – they, me, – we all laughed our asses off and particularly the dig at Armstrong. Stolfi gave us the permission, which many thought wasn’t possible, to laugh at Cancer. He left me invigorated with the prospect that just a well told tale is all it takes to change our healthcare system. Perhaps slightly naïve, I know, – okay, really naïve – but he put a creative exclamation mark on how to enrich our understanding of the lived illness experience. I thought if only every health care professional, every researcher, every academic, every administrator, every policy wonk could see this show…if only…

Its 12 years later and although the whole world hasn’t seen Stolfi’s performance, he’s gifted us with his memoir, “The Comedian vs Cancer: The Show Must Go On”.

 I made sure to finish reading it this morning, to celebrate this auspicious anniversary. Now every one can experience his titanic clash with Cancer. Now everyone can see through his eyes what its like to be 25, carefree, virile, career lifting off, covered in hair everywhere – yes, down there too -and then have it all crash in an instant by an alien invader intent on killing you.  To overcome it takes every ounce of strength, agility, humour, appetite, desperation, hair and love.

This book challenges everyone in health care professing to be patient centred. Institutions should put this on the required reading list for every life science student. Pharma folks should be buying this book for the thousands of employees responsible for developing and delivering oncology drugs to patients. Policy wonks at every level of government should put this on their expense account. And if you’ve never talked to someone with Cancer and then when it ultimately happens you can only come up with the feeble “How’re you feeling?” when you know damn well they’re feeling like shit, then get this book.

You’ll laugh, cry, maybe even vomit.  Get the book. It’s cheaper than parking at the hospital.

Thanks Dan. And thanks Jenny, Elsa, Amedeo, and all those who helped keep Stolfi alive to empower us all to say, “F_ _ _ ___ L_ _ _ _ ___ A_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ !!”.

Pain and parking: Capturing the patient experience

With Patient Experience Week 2019 coming to a close, its fitting to share a blog I collaborated on with Health Quality Ontario’s (HQO) interim CEO, Anna Greenberg. Since HQO is mandated to measure quality improvement in health care delivery, we look at the issue of measurement from the evidence perspective and from the patient perspective.

From my admittedly biased patient perspective, I’m still left with the question: Are we measuring what matters to patients?

Take a read and share what your thoughts are.