family practice issues and general life events

Unexpected lessons

I was going to blog about something today, I don’t remember what, but my ideas disappeared when I read a blog from a high school classmate of mine. I haven’t talked to her since we graduated, but a link to her blog popped up on one of our mutual friends page, and I opened it. It’s contents shocked me. What I remember her from high school is that she was one of the strongest people I knew. In fact that would probably be the word that I would have described her if I had to give a one word description. And in the blog she revealed she had been diagnosed with breast cancer- it stopped me

I hope she won’t take this as a method of self indulgence, she has given me a gift. Something as a doctor, while we know and think about (or should) it is not always a look we see. The ivory towers of medicine instruct you on diagnosis, tests, and treatments, it does not train you how to feel what the individual does. In residency, people do become their diseases, right or wrong. There might be cases that stick with you, whether you made a mistake or not- but they are not personalized.

And in private practice, these are your patients. As a family practice doctor, I have told several patients about their cancer, I have sat with them, I have cried with them. They teach you that once the word cancer is introduced, everything else is forgotten. And Toni reminded me of this in a more personal way.

Her honesty is the reason, we always try to bring a family member with the diagnosis, and yet how much do they remember after the “C” word. And the public, while there are references to cancer and cancer research everywhere, how much of it helps the one with the disease. The one undergoing treatment. It reminds me of the rubber bracelets which are now a fad that say “Boobies” do those wearing them understand the significance or are they just a way for the teenaged boy to get away with wearing “boobies” on his wrist. I hope it is the former, but I have my doubts.

Any way Toni, I wish to say thank you, thank you for the reminder. The reminder that people are more than their diseases, which I try to remember everyday. That people with cancer are more than their disease, and more than the marketing blitz you see on the television. I send you my prayers, and send you what strength I can, and I thank you for the gift you gave me with your blog. I think what you wrote helps me to remember why I am a doctor, not that I forgot, but you have helped to make it clearer today. And I hope that I carry that forward with my patients. And maybe it will help me do better when I have to give that dreaded diagnosis to another


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