American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

From the Director's Desk

Weary Winter: Carry On, Build Resilience, and Nurture Survivor Empathy

Heidi Nelson, MD, FACS

Heidi Nelson, MD, FACS
Medical Director, ACS Cancer Programs

We made a lot of positive progress in 2020 and we just celebrated the holidays, but it seems that many of us don’t have the same enthusiasm and energy as we did even a month ago. Based on typical biologic responses to stress, it is not surprising that we are experiencing this sense of fatigue. When you layer dreary post-holiday winter isolation on top of pandemic stressors, and you add a pinch of social unrest, how could we escape weariness? But the key question is: “What do we do about it?”

Perhaps we should take a page from the playbook and story of the people who survived the 1918 pandemic, great depression and World War II, as in the Tom Brokaw book, The Greatest Generation. Survivorship of this generation was attributed to personal responsibility, integrity, humility, work ethic, financial prudence, and faithful commitment. Modern messages of resilience are not too dissimilar: take care of your health, stay connected, find purpose, contribute to the greater good, and maintain faith and hope. No doubt these messages resonate with health care providers, as these words are part of the day-to-day narrative—traditionally for patients but not for us until now. Providers and patients alike are struggling and so like those before us we will keep calm, carry on, and support the cancer community. As difficult as this is for all of us, perhaps through this experience we will gain a greater appreciation for survivorship and the journey of the person with cancer.