An extreme example comes from Alex Mons, a commander of the Navy. Alex, age 50, is the father of Stephan, who was diagnosed with a rare form of nasopharynx cancer at the age of 21 and whose cancer has unfortunately recurred after six years.
Despite having an aggressive cancer, Stephan’s father considers his son as resilient and a fighter: “Before my son was treated, he asked his doctor if he could fly to the Navy base in Curaçao and sail back on his ship with his colleagues. The treatment was finished in November, and Stephan wanted to fly in December. He was still very ill and the doctor advised against it. But he insisted and he received permission to take his trip under strict medical guidance. In December, he flew to Curaçao, stepped aboard the ship and, despite being hospitalized during a heavy storm, he arrived safely home in the Netherlands. It was a very special experience for the crew and particularly for Stephan, helping him to regain his fighting spirit. The trip helped him to recover that desire to fight, and it certainly helped that his fiancée was on board as well!”
Returning to that quote from Frans van Houten on the need to be an innovator in healthcare – even for a company like Philips with 125 years’ experience in technological innovation and research – it is vital to remember that there is always a human side to the story. In spite of the protocols and the techniques, cancer can happen to anyone.
Oncology is just as diverse and complex as the human body, and we’re all helping each other, whether you are a former patient, a father, a young man, a healthcare professional or working at a company like Philips. We’re all collaborating by trying to do the right things, by helping each other in different societies and worldwide – for me, that’s its own kind of victory.