Health Care and the Biology of Hope

I'm from Kentucky where we take our horse racing seriously.

A friend of mine, concerned about a homeless man outside her office in Lexington, KY decided she must do something even if minimal. She tucked a twenty dollar bill in an envelope and wrote on the outside, For Hope For the Future.  The man received the envelope graciously and thanked her.  The next day when as she left the building, he approached her with a large wad of bills.

"Here's your money, lady."

"What do you mean my money? I gave that twenty to you."

"I know, your note said for Hope for the Future. I put the twenty on Hope for the Future in the third race at Keeneland. He was such a long shot he paid thirty to one odds and you made a bundle, Missy."

Hope is not a horse in the third race but it does impact our future.

In The Western Journal of Medicine, Dr. William M. Buchholz records the story of overhearing two oncologists discussing the papers they were to present that day at the national meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  One was complaining bitterly that he did not understand why they were both using the same drugs, the same dosage, the same schedule and the same entry criteria and getting incredibly different results.  

"I got a 22 percent response rate and you got a 74 percent response rate. That's unheard of for metastatic lung cancer.  How do you do it?"
His fellow oncologist answered, "We're both using Etoposide, Platinol, Oncovin, and Hydroxyurea.  You call yours EPOH. I tell my patients I'm giving the HOPE.  Sure, I tell them this is experimental and we go over the long list of side effects together. But I emphasize that we have a chance.  As dismal as the statistics are for non-small cell, there are always a few percent who do really well."

As I've listened to the health care debate, I've thought often of this anecdote which I use in The Value of Hope one of the chapters of my upcoming book. I have long been a proponent of what Dr. Norman Cousins calls A Biology of Hope. There is scientific evidence, he says, for a assiduous commitment to maintaining hope in your own life and giving it to others in order to facilitate physical, mental and emotional well being.

Do we need the health care debate. Absolutely! Do we also need to nurture hope? Absolutely. Make it so in your own life.

updated: 7 years ago


Hope?Wednesday, July 1st 2009 1:11PM

Sure, why undergo any of those treatments? Especially some of the chemo regimes. But, there are also limits. And yours will be different than mine. Hope, for me, is not a "pie in the sky by and by" thing, but rather a supporting ground under my feet.

And we still haven't said a whole lot about the "ultimate" hope that is faith in the Resurrected One, have we? Or do we even need to?

This is Charles, that retired Lutheran pastor you know, who is kinda strange anyway, right?

Health care future?Monday, June 29th 2009 6:43PM

Well, here is something I keep pointing out to my doctor and others.
1. Every last one of us will die of something.
2. DNA testing will, in a few years, tell us what the  most likely "condition" will be.
3. Insurers want to "cherry pick" the lowest risks.
4. Some folks will have a lot of risks.
5. So, let's not mess around, just do a single payer system so that everyone is covered, period!
6. Let my doctor tell me what drugs I need, not advertisements. It's her/his job!
7. I need a live pharmacist to ask the answers to my dumb questions
That's my brief comment on the whole mess.

Thank you for your comments. I agree whole-heartedly. Surely, we will get some legislation out of Washington this year!

And how do you feel about hope?