Harriette Thompson, a classical pianist and cancer survivor who started to run marathons when she was 76 and ran the fastest time in a marathon for a woman over 90, died on Monday, October 16 in Charlotte, N.C. She was 94. NY Times Obituary.
[In the past few years, she ran] while wearing white tights to cover the open wounds on her legs from radiation treatments for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Over the last seven years she had also dealt with a recurrence of oral cancer, which first struck her in 1986. The short and instructive New York Times obituary has many teaching points and is inspirational.
- This 94-year-old musician and athlete died from a fall at the facility she was living in, not from her cancers.
- Although she had squamous cell carcinoma of her legs and was being treated with radiotherapy the skin cancers were not proximate causes of her demise. This corroborates the work of E. Linos on “Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer in the Elderly.” In my opinion, we pay far too much attention to skin cancers which are billable to Medicaid and Medicare than to having patients use canes or having 94-year-old people being extremely cautious about stairs.
- This remarkable woman was a pianist until her death, she was an athlete. She had great meaning of her life.
For me, as a dermatologist, this reinforces the fact that treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer in the elderly, especially people over age 85, is not likely to improve their quality of life. Before recommending therapy, we may need to step back and not scare our elderly patients into having unnecessary surgery but, as experts, we should have honest discussions with them. Lesions in certain areas are best treated (around the eyes, nose, ears); but lesions on the torso and extremities can often be followed by active surveillance.These short You Tube videos will interest some of you.