Dr. Tondre Buck, MD // Oncologist at Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute // Husband // Father // Traveler // Braves Fan // “Keep it Simple”
The Power of a Plan
My cancer story has two paths: one professional and one personal.
In 2008, during the final year of my internal medicine residency, I was trying to decide on a career path. I was on call, and my youth baseball coach was admitted with complications of multiple myeloma. With this condition, a group of plasma cells becomes cancerous and multiplies. The disease can damage the bones, immune system, kidneys, and red blood cell count. This is not a curable disease, and he soon passed away.
So, I thought this was a sign from God, and I decided to pursue hematology and oncology.
Before this experience, I wasn’t sure what my medical path would be. After that experience, I was certain. I wanted to care for and treat those impacted by cancer.
Not long after that, my mother was diagnosed with a rare form of uterine cancer, uterine carcinosarcoma. While she put up a good fight, my mom ultimately died from cancer in 2012.
Both of these stories influenced my path to hematology and oncology.
Advice for Pursuing a Medical Career
I have no regrets about my career choice. I’d encourage young professionals to consider it. My advice would be to set your long-term goals, put those goals first, and manage your time accordingly. You don’t have to be a genius to be a physician, but it does take dedication and sacrifice.
Take it step by step, and don’t get overwhelmed. Take time to be a kid or a teenager. Figure out what college you want to attend that will get you in the best position possible to achieve success.
Empathy is critical. I always thought I was empathetic, but my mother’s battle with cancer enhanced that aspect of my approach.
Another challenging yet everyday experience is how difficult it is to let go. There are many different belief systems when it comes to dying. My job is not to judge but to help that transition be as comfortable as possible.
This is one of the reasons why I see the Cancer Survivors Park as such an amazing facility for a host of reasons. I see about 20 to 30 patients a week. The word “cancer” hits like a punch to the gut. Cancer is such a scary word.
This is why I believe patients can draw strength from Cancer Survivors Park, which is very important. At the onset of a cancer journey, everyone is always anxious and nervous, and rightfully so.
I’m also a huge advocate for patients taking charge of their plans. One piece of advice is to ask yourself, “do I fully understand and agree with my treatment strategy?”
Take an active role in your treatment strategy. From a patient’s perspective, don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is your journey. I’d encourage you to seek information from reputable sources. Active participation leads to better outcomes. I see that time and time again.
Who and What Inspires You?
Simple, my family. This includes my wife of 19 years, Tameka, and my two kids, Teagan and Tondre Jr. Growing up, my parents and siblings always stressed the importance of education.
Professionally, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
I’m inspired by the treatments and innovations that are on the horizon. People with cancer are living longer. New ideas are being presented every day. New drugs are being tested. There’s a lot of momentum right now.
I’m currently researching multiple myeloma and its disproportional impact and diagnosis on African Americans. My goal is to deliver cutting-edge cancer treatments for patients in the upstate.
Story by Michael McCullough
Photo by Patrick Cox