There are endless life lessons to learn from people around us. Our friends’ opinions on what they think about a product, a certain cuisine, or how they view life not only gives us a glimpse of who they are, but also can impact our own views. As a doctor, it is always fascinating to me how two patients with the same oncologic diagnosis can have such different views of life: one can be pessimistic and feel defeated before the battle even begins, and the other remains optimistic and grateful. Dr. Moshe Weiner certainly was the latter.
Over the years I learned a lot from Moshe. He was a colleague, a friend, and an avid pilot. When I was a brand-new attending physician, I joined a five-doctor group practice. One day, I felt overwhelmed with the number of consults I had in the hospital and the complexity of many of the patients. Moshe did not hesitate to lend his hand. He rushed to finish up his office hours and drove to the hospital to help me. This not only made my day less stressful, it also reassured me that I was working with people I could trust and rely on.
Moshe would always greet people with a big grin, and his genuine concern was infectious. His patients loved him. He made them feel at ease, even for those with serious or advanced cancer diagnoses. Moshe was humble and down to earth. Patients felt connected with him and trusted him.
Everyone knew about his passion for flying, which started in his college years. He trained to be a pilot before medical school. He would take advantage of all the opportunities he had to fly. He felt there was something free about being in control thousands of feet above ground and this carefree spirit also shined through in his everyday life.
One day, while Moshe was pulling his plane to park, he noticed he became short of breath only after moderate exertion. He was found to have severe anemia. This was followed by a series of tests, two bone marrow biopsies, several hematologic opinions from different institutions, and no definitive diagnosis. He required more blood product transfusions. Within weeks, he was not able to work. While he was admitted to the hospital receiving systemic therapy, consuming more blood products, suffering from debilitating diarrhea, weight loss, and unprecedented pain, he would still offer me jokes to encourage me to continue with my duty to care for patients. He would say, “I’ll be back at work soon.”
After five months of an uphill battle, Moshe passed away. I will never forget his big smile, his love for his patients, and his enthusiasm for flying. He reminded me to always fill myself with love for our patients, to be optimistic yet realistic. He reminded me to be content with what we have because things can change in a flash. He lived his days to the fullest as an oncologist and as a pilot.
There is a Chinese saying (loosely translated), “In humans, there is sorrow, happiness, separation, and togetherness; the moon has moments when it is covered by clouds, when it is clear and bright, when it is round, and when it is partially missing. These have always been difficult to be perfect.” Such is part of life. Life is not perfect, but I strive to take each step on this earth as the best version of myself in this imperfect world.
Thank you, Moshe, for the privilege to have met you at the crossroads of our lives. I hope you are flying your plane, looking down from the clear blue sky, smiling at us.
Mary Leung is a hematology-oncology physician.
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