Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Letter to a new patient

Letter to a new patient
By: Susan J. Mellette, M.D.

Photo of Susan Mellette for blog post

Tonight I looked into your eyes – and saw your tears
“They come unbidden, (this you said)
Whenever I allow myself to think of those I love.”
And thus you told me that you knew the odds we face…
And, in a sense, I find it better that you know
For when we start together on this battleground…
For that is what is – we know that – each of us -
But I alone can know the real amalgam that my bullets are…
Though I could wish them golden, they are brass-
You, on the other hand, are unaware, perhaps, that even brass
May dent, sometimes, the armour of our foe;
And I am optimist enough to hope – to pray – that each small dent
May buy us room for an advance – for you – not just for those
Who are to come. (We’ll find their bullets as the need arise.)
It is for you we fight today – for your tomorrows – for those years
You have expected which are threatened now.
What can I promise you tonight? This single certainty
That I command: Just this – that I shall choose the ammunition
That I use with care – to make the most of every weapon we have.
Of this you may be sure…
And one more vow I make – a corollary pledge –
That I shall not retreat – I shall be there beside you
Come what may. A colleague and an ally of a sort, as well as one
Who must direct the fight.
Your battle is my own as well…For you – and those you love
A campaign worthy of the best that all of us can give,
With due humility of those who know
The limits of their finite power, but are not unaware
That each small particle of Light we have – is harbinger and proof
Of greater Light awaiting means – to make it visible.

About Susan J. Mellette, M.D.
In 1960, Susan J. Mellette, M.D., a well-known national and international leader in the field of cancer rehabilitation and cancer education, was appointed as director of the Division of Cancer Studies, an academic unit that was the forerunner of Massey Cancer Center. Her initial efforts included expanding and energizing a tumor clinic and a tumor board, developing a cancer research laboratory supported by both National Institutes of Health and American Cancer Society grants, and a cancer education program that led many medical students to choose oncology as a career. She also developed a wide range of support services for the patients that led to a unique and truly multidisciplinary cancer rehabilitation program, which became a national model for this innovative approach to the total care of the cancer patient. Mellette later served as director of the Cancer Rehabilitation and Continuing Care Program where she was considered a source of strength and support for patients and their families. She retired in 1995 after serving almost 50 years in oncology. She passed away in 2000. Her legacy and tremendous impact on patients will live on forever.

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Posted on: August 22, 2013

Category: Center news & funding