Oncologists Tell Inspiring Stories of What It’s  Like to Treat Cancer in The Big Casino

A Conversation With Stan Winokur, MD


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Stan Winokur, MD

The Big Casino

All the essays show the human side of oncology. My goal was to show that oncologists are human beings with the same feelings, fears, and happiness as their patients.

—Stan Winokur, MD

Title: The Big Casino: America’s Best Cancer Doctors Share Their Most Powerful Stories
Editors: Stan Winokur, MD, and Vincent Coppola

Publishing Platform: CreateSpace
Publication date: May 2014
Price: $9.99; Paperback, 160 pages

 

In May, Stan Winokur, MD, and co-editor Vincent Coppola, published The Big Casino: America’s Best Cancer Doctors Share Their Most Powerful Stories, a compilation of forty-two essays written by some of the leading oncologists in the country about their experiences treating cancer. The inspiration for the book, said Dr. Winokur, came from his desire to give oncologists a venue to express their personal stories of courage and compassion they have witnessed in their patients and to give patients with cancer an inside look into how treating the disease affects not only patients, caregivers, and friends, but their physicians and other members of their medical teams as well.

The book is available on Amazon.com and at thebigcasino.org. Dr. Winokur is also working with patient advocacy groups to distribute The Big Casino for free to patients with cancer through oncologists’ offices.

Dr. Winokur was a medical oncologist with a community practice in Atlanta from 1973 to 1995. He is currently Medical Director of Axess Oncology, an oncology and medical industry consulting firm.

The ASCO Post talked with Dr. Winokur about his inspiration for doing the book and why it was important for him to publish The Big Casino. Below is an excerpt from The Big Casino called “Family,” written by Kenneth C. Anderson, MD, Kraft Family Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Medical Director of the Kraft Family Blood Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. In the essay, Dr. Anderson writes about advances in the treatment of multiple myeloma that he has witnessed during his 40 years in practice as well as life lessons he has learned from his patients, mentors, and family.

Odds of Survival

Where did the title for your book, The Big Casino, come from?

When I started practicing oncology in the 1970s, it was common for doctors to avoid the word “cancer” when talking with their patients and instead refer to the disease as The Big C or The Big Casino because it was less frightening. Back then, you rolled the dice and the odds were not in the patient’s favor. Now, with the advancements being made in cancer treatment, the odds of survival for many patients are changing dramatically.

Invaluable Gifts

What do you hope to accomplish with the book?

I wanted to create a book that demonstrates the invaluable gifts that America’s top cancer doctors—both in private practice and in academia—have received from their patients, including the gift of courage, the gift of strength, the gift of love, and the gifts of compassion, endurance, and equanimity.

When I was in community practice, at the end of all office visits I thanked my patients for coming in. And the reason I thanked them was because they were giving me hope, courage, and strength. Every one of the authors in this book tells the story of how their patients have affected their lives.

All the essays show the human side of oncology. My goal was to show that oncologists are human beings with the same feelings, fears, and happiness as their patients.

I also hope the book will be therapeutic for readers. For example, in the essay by Kishore K. Dass, MD [Medical Director of South Florida Radiation Oncology in Wellington, Florida] called “Courage Under Fire,” he is paying homage to an oncology nurse who had breast cancer. It’s his way of thanking her for the inspiration she gave him to become a better physician every day.

All of the stories in the book express the feeling of gratitude and inspiration these oncologists have received from their patients. The authors also convey how their patients’ courage keeps them motivated to continue working toward a time when all patients can live long, high-quality lives after cancer.

Role of Fear

There is still so much fear surrounding a cancer diagnosis. How can The Big Casino help patients feel less afraid?

Fear is an emotion that is present not just in the patient with cancer, but in the oncologist as well. The stories relayed in the book describe the fear oncologists have of letting their patients down and the fear of not curing their patients.

I’m hoping this book helps patients understand that it is okay to express their fear to their oncologist, because then the oncologist can validate it and say, “I know you are afraid, but here is the reality. Now we have these drugs, and treatment is more effective. I will be here for you and we will face this together.” ■


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Book Excerpt: Family

I've witnessed incredible courage and zest for life among so many patients from so many walks of life—individuals committed to helping others in spite of their own adversity.

Forty years ago, when survival for patients with multiple myeloma was a matter of months, I knew that every person I sat...


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