Daf­fodils sym­bolic of hope against de­spair

Central Leader - - News - By Scott Mor­gan

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.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Ded­i­cated: Auck­land City Hospi­tal can­cer spe­cial­ist Richard Sul­li­van deals with the med­i­cal and emo­tional needs of his pa­tients ev­ery day.

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