As a Melanoma specialist at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Evan Lipson, has seen the devastating impact cancer diagnosis can have on a patient.
"Your whole life is just shaken off course," he says, "and everything that you think about in your day-to-day routine, you kids, your job, spouse, career, it all has big question marks all over it."
While there were moments that were tremendously sad, Dr. Lipson says, about 2 years ago, he realized there was something else to what he was hearing from patients.
"Patients were making changes in their lives, in very positive ways."
Lipson's long-time patient Mike was diagnosed with lung cancer while in the midst of a big backyard renovation. Instead of paying someone else to build him a patio, Mike decided to build it himself, so that after he was gone, his wife could look out their kitchen window and be reminded of her husband.
Nearly all of his patients, Dr. Lipson realized, were doing really interesting things. He tells of a woman who knitted quilts for her daughters and granddaughters so they could 'wrap themselves up' in her love. Another patient was diagnosed with brain cancer and began a second career as a public speaker.
Dr Lipson began an audio recording project, called 'Seize the Days,' where cancer patients or their caregivers sit down for a one-on-one interview to document the side of cancer that you don't often hear about. Anne Appelgarth was interviewed for the site and says, for her, the interview wasn't about having an emotional catharsis, it's about passing on information to the next person diagnosed.
"In this current information age when we're diagnosed with something, we Google it," she says. "And then you find the 200 pieces of information. But hopefully enough hits will come to Seize the Days that someone will click and go 'oh, wait a minute!'"
A short version of the interview goes on the website, and the full version is hosted online by the Johns Hopkins Medical Library for anyone to stream, anywhere in the world. Which is exactly the exposure Dr. Lipson is hoping to achieve.
[Music: "The Best Day (Instrumental)" by Taylor Swift from Singles]
Photos: "Seize the Day"