Thursday, July 27, 2006

The C word

We had a health scare these past few days with the C word threatening to rear its ugly head. It’s interesting how, even though we are surrounded by stories of people with cancer and may even know one or two who have survived or have succumbed to the disease, the prospect of it ever affecting a loved one doesn’t really enter our mind. And when it does, it brings with it an explosion of grief and anxiety. To seriously think about cancer is to confront your own mortality. No words can ever explain the feeling of being faced with the diagnosis. But those who have been through the experience, or who have a loved one who has been affected by it, know that the diagnosis of cancer engenders a language all its own. We on the outside can only hint at it, with words that know nothing of its provenance. We are too naive to know, too lucky to be alive. Thank God.

Monday, July 03, 2006

On Being a Doctor

"As you learn to become a doctor, there is a frequent sense of surprise, a feeling that you are not entitled to the kind of intrusion you are allowed into patients' lives. Without arguing, they permit you to examine them; it is impossible to imagine, when you do your very first physical exam, that someday you will walk in calmly and tell a man your grandfather's age to undress, and then examine him without thinking about it twice. You get used to it all, but every so often you find yourself marveling at the access you are allowed, at the way you are learning from their bodies, the stories, the lives and deaths of perfect strangers. They give up their privacy in exchange for some hope - sometimes strong, sometimes faint - of the alleviation of pain, the curing of disease. And gradually, with medical training, that feeling of amazement, that feeling that you are not entitled, scars over. You begin to identify more thoroughly with the medical profession - of course you are entitled to see everything and know everything; you're a doctor, aren't you? And as you accept this as your right, you move further from your patients, even as you penetrate more meticulously and more confidently into their lives." - Perri Klass, M.D.

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