Daffodils symbolic of hope against despair
A desire to help cancer patients through tough times is what inspires Richard Sullivan.
The director of medical oncology at Auckland City Hospital says there’s more to his job than just diagnosing and treating patients.
“There’s lots of emotions and family trauma involved. By listening and being there you can do so much.”
The Mt Eden resident finds it difficult not to become attached to patients as they battle the disease.
“There are always people who stick with you.
“Some of them, for whatever reason, pull at your heartstrings.”
In one instance a patient who was given only weeks to live survived for another two years after being given experimental medication.
“The reality is stats are stats but everyone is individual,” he says.
Dr Sullivan says people often have misconceptions about what cancer means for them.
But awareness is raised through campaigns such as the Cancer Society’s Daffo- dil Day, being held today.
“People live with HIV for years and many people with cancer are the same,” he says.
“The medical innovations are huge. The challenge is how we afford them.”
Originally the 38-year-old father-of four, who works about 65 hours a week, thought he was destined for a career as a specialist in respiratory medicine.
But working in an oncology ward changed all that.
“Within two weeks I thought: ‘This is so who I am’.”
“If it’s who you are, it’s a great job, but it’s not for everybody.”
Cancer Society Auckland Region chief executive John Loof says the idea behind Daffodil Day is to show the public that cancer is not necessarily a death sentence.
“It’s a bright flower that comes out of a cold, dark winter. New life means new hope.”
The society provide services directly to cancer sufferers, including nurses who visit patients at home, accommodation and transport.
For more information on Daffodil Day or to donate go to www.daffodilday.org.nz.
Dedicated: Auckland City Hospital cancer specialist Richard Sullivan deals with the medical and emotional needs of his patients every day.