It's the dog days of August, a time of year traditionally reserved for slowing down and savoring the last summer has to offer, before Labor Day and the academic calendar whisk us into autumn and all of its responsibilities. It's a time for taking vacations, summer reading, backyard barbecues and perhaps a little extra rest.
Unfortunately, cancer patients and their caregivers rarely get a break from the disease. As much as they could use a vacation from cancer, chemotherapy treatments must continue; radiation appointments must be kept. A cancer diagnosis can take a significant toll on the patient's family and friends as they provide care and support for their loved one and there is no break from that work, either.
Here at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC CancerCenter, we realize living with cancer requires vigilance, determination and more than a little fight on the part of our patients, which is why while much of the world slows down during August our physician-scientists continue seeking new ways to understand and treat this disease. From understanding the relationship between heartburn drugs and cancer risk to decoding the genetic mutations behind head and neck cancer and pancreatic cancer, our researchers have been working rigorously to figure out the causes and complexities of this disease.
Our researchers aren't the only ones working hard through the summer – two of our oncologists, Dr. Hussein Tawbi and Dr. Kurt Weiss - worked closely with several of their sarcoma patients to organize the first PittsburghCureSarcoma 5K walk/run. The event raised over $20,000 for sarcoma research, benefitting UPCI and the Sarcoma Foundation of America. The walk/run demonstrated the kind of power partnerships between physicians and patients are capable of, and reminded us that just because a form of cancer is rare, that doesn't mean it's okay to suffer from it.
In addition, our own Director of Cancer Education, Lynda Tunon, won the Distinguished Service Award from the Cancer Patient Education Network, the highest form of recognition a cancer educator can receive. The award is given for accomplishments and tangible contributions that promote excellence in patient education as an integral part of patient care — and as any of the hundreds of cancer patients who have gone through her chemotherapy education class can tell you, Lynda exemplifies all these qualities, and more.
Our summer has been busy, and our autumn will only be more so, but we wouldn't have it any other way. From our laboratory research to the treatment of our patients, we aim for excellence in everything we do, with the hope that the future will someday be cancer-free. Until then, we take pride that the work we do translates into superior patient care. Our patients motivate and inspire everything we do, and we are continually grateful they come to us comprehensive care.
Enjoy the rest of the summer (and slather on that sunscreen!), and if you can, take some time to read a book and rest a bit. If you are feeling ambitious, perhaps relieve a cancer caregiver for an hour or two. We'll work on the problem of cancer — you work on enjoying our last days of summer.