Dr. Vincent DeGennaro Jr. '02 | Dec. 4, 2013 | Notre Dame Magazine
At least once a day, I sit in a room across from a patient and tell them that the cancer that they have is incurable and will ultimately claim their life. Many of them had an entirely treatable cancer at some point. They bounced from clinic to clinic, from doctors unsure what to do to help them or pharmacies and hospitals that charged more than they could afford.
“We’ll treat your pain and other symptoms, but there is nothing we can do beyond that,” I say to the 38-year-old man with an extremely rare tumor growing in his heart. I repeat the phrase to a 60-year-old man with melanoma that has spread to the groin. And then again and again and again over the next two weeks to three cirrhotic patients with liver tumors. I can often smell death on the patient once the cancer has eaten through their skin and stinks like rotting meat, giving them away in a room of fully-clothed patients.