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UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

David Davidian — Overcoming the emotional trauma of a cancer diagnosis

David Davidian

David Davidian did everything right. He ate a healthy diet. He worked out regularly. He was active on his newly purchased ranch in the foothills north of Sacramento. Recently retired and ready to launch the next phase in his life, Davidian had no reason to worry about a health crisis. So when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008, he felt confused and angry. How could this happen to him?

That was his state of mind walking into the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center for what would be a battery of tests, surgery and chemotherapy. And that is how he felt when he met oncology nurse Calene Roseman. Over the next several months, Roseman would help him recover from his cancer surgery and therapy along with the deeper emotional trauma of a cancer diagnosis in the prime of life. Roseman, one of a cadre of specially trained oncology nurses at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, embodies the dedication and compassion of providers who work to improve their patients’ quality of life on many levels.

Davidian was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer at age 64. His treatment began with colon surgery performed by surgical oncologist Vijay Khatri, a physician he says provided him not only with excellent surgical care, but also reassuring follow-up. Over the next few months, and well into his post-treatment recovery period, Davidian underwent CT scans and labs every two weeks.  

During the course of his treatments — and even in between — Davidian grew to rely on Roseman’s sage and sometimes even stern advice. She explains that when a patient depends on you so fully, you have to give it your all. The two developed a close relationship.

“She was very compassionate, she comforted me,” Davidian said.

Consumed with worry, Davidian called Roseman every week while waiting to hear his lab results. Roseman helped redirect his anxiety with straightforward guidance.

“You’ve got to learn to forget about the test results and continue to live your life; you can’t make everything you do be about the cancer,” Roseman remembered telling him.  

Whenever her patient felt despair, Roseman was upfront, reminding him he had a blessed life: His sister had moved into his house to care for him; he had a beautiful home; and he was surrounded by people who loved him. He had much to be thankful for, she told him.

Roseman said she felt empowered to help show her patient that people do have second chances, and that cancer was not the end of his life. She stressed that the reason he went through the surgeries, tests, and chemotherapy was to be able to have a future.

“Tomorrow is going to come, what are you going to do?” she asked him.

In time, Davidian realized that his cancer treatment was a temporary obstacle and he would not be living with the disease forever.

“It’s life,” he said. “After so long you realize being negative and fighting isn’t going to do any good.”

Today, Davidian is cancer free. He has been happily married to his wife, Amalia, for four years. He stays busy gardening and playing with his dogs, Milo and Lucy. He and Roseman remain friends. Most important, Davidian is making the most of his life, one he once thought he would never get the chance to enjoy again.

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