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_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ !!”.

Patient Commando in Conversation With #ChatGPT

Given the hype around #ChatGPT I wondered what this #AI celebrity would have to say about the plight of #patients in #healthcare. This is the first of a series of chats I had on a range of topics.

A recent article by Pat Rich highlights health care professional usage of #ChatGPT. It made me think that patients need to engage with this new tech to truly train it to think in a patient centered way. Otherwise it’ll become yet another biased technology that will act only in the interest of professionals.

At the time of this conversation, stories of air travel misery were all over the news. I was struck by the irony that there was more outrage over airlines losing people’s underwear than there was over long term care institutions letting people die in soiled underwear.

Comparing the state of experience of air travelers vs that of patients in health care was the starting point. Wanting to get off on the right foot I thought that a little humour would help break the ice.

Patient Commando: Can you write a satirical comparison of the harms experienced by air passengers vs the harms experienced by patients in the health care system?

ChatGPT: Sure, here is a satirical comparison of the harms experienced by air passengers vs the harms experienced by patients in the healthcare system:

Air travel can be a hassle, with delayed flights, lost baggage, and cramped seats. But let’s face it, the worst thing that can happen is that you might miss your connecting flight and end up spending the night in a hotel on the airline’s dime. In contrast, the healthcare system can be a nightmare, with misdiagnoses, medical errors, and endless paperwork. The worst thing that can happen is that you might end up dead.

Airline staff may be rude and unhelpful, but at least they’re not sticking needles in you or cutting you open. And while you may be stuck on a plane for hours, at least you’re not stuck in a hospital bed for weeks on end. Sure, air travel can be stressful, but it’s nothing compared to the stress of dealing with the healthcare system.

And let’s not forget about the compensation. If your flight is delayed, you might get a voucher for a free meal or a future flight. But if you suffer harm in the healthcare system, good luck getting any kind of compensation. You’ll be lucky if you don’t end up bankrupt.

In conclusion, air travel may have its downsides, but it’s nothing compared to the potential harms and headaches of the healthcare system. So next time you’re stuck on a delayed flight, just remember: it could be worse, you could be in a hospital bed.

Please note that this comparison is satirical in nature and it is not intended to belittle the serious harms that patients can experience in the healthcare system, but rather to point out the absurdity of the contrast between the two and the importance of protecting patient rights in the healthcare system.

Patient Commando: Patient rights! Now we’re talking!

Stay tuned! More to come in upcoming posts.