How Cancer Can Also Affect Your Doctor


DECATUR, Ga. — Doctors and other cancer specialists speak about how cancer can not only have an effect on the patients, but also the on the physicians themselves. This can have a whole different effect on how people think about cancer. When you think about cancer, have you thought about the impact it can have on the doctors who treat them.

A few specialists from the Dekalb Medical Center have decided to inform others on just what those effects could be. People will now have a different perspective on the topic of cancer, its patients and their doctors.

Difference between Chemo and Radiation Therapy

Dr. Tasha Balfour-Williams has worked with cancer patients for more than 20 years. Balfour-Williams works with patients through radiation therapy, which is when a specialist uses a machine, a linear accelerator, that directs high levels of X-rays at specific cancer cells in a patient’s body.

Radiation therapy is different from chemotherapy, which is when chemo is directed into the veins of the patient from the head to the toes and can have a more harmful effect on the patient’s body. Balfour-Williams has worked with patients from the age range of 22 years old to 90 years old, and her mental stability has changed over the years she has been treating these patients.

What can change

“When I first started off in my field, I was always making sure that I did my best and that I was aggressive with the treatments because you want them to do well,” Balfour-Williams said.

“After a couple of years, I’ve come to realize that I won’t be able to save everyone. I can say that I’m less as heroic than I was when I started off, and I’ve realized that our goal is to relieve the pain,” Balfour-Williams said. “I just make sure to stay close to my patients and try to help relieve other issues that they might have going on in their life.”

Balfour-Williams said, when she was a child, she would always pray for the cure for cancer.

“If I could change something with my job, of course it would to help eradicate cancer all together,” Balfour-Williams said.

She goes on to say that dealing with cancer patients can be a little different. Just like with any other incurable disease, it will be harder to try and keep the patients hopes up about curing the disease.

What Can Help

Specialist Cynthia McNeill worked with cancer patients for more than 45 years and has been retired for 10 years. McNeill has seen a lot of other specialists who have come into the field not because it was something that they wanted to do but just because the position was open. She has seen that those types of people are the ones who have a bigger strain on them when it comes to cancer patients.

“Everyone is not in it because they truly want to be here,” McNeill said. “Some people are in it just for a job, and I would get rid of those people that are in it just for a job.”

McNeill goes on to say sometimes physicians and specialists need to take time out to breathe. McNeill states that the way that she would relax is by doing absolutely nothing on her free time. It allowed her to clear her head and gain some peace.


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