What if there was an infection that can cause permanent nerve damage and pain? What if the virus could affect the eye and cause blindness or affect the brain and cause meningitis?  What if the burning rash attacks almost half of all Americans sometime in their life?  If you knew there was a vaccine which could protect you from that malady, would you get the shot?   The disease is called ...

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I feel guilty about the killings in Colorado.  As a doctor, those horrid events are a personal failure.  I have spent a career fighting illness, often investing hundreds of hours in a single cancer case, yet in minutes, a dozen people vanish and 58 are grievously wounded.  Another 32,000 will die this year from gunshots, over 76,000 will be crippled and ...

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Steve is lying almost flat in the hospital room, an IV attached to his arm.  I am happy to see he is more comfortable, last night’s crisis has passed.  He smiles as I enter and walk to his side.  I touch his hand as I sit down on the pressed clean blanket.  And then … a shrill loud wail breaks the silence … lights flash above his bed … fear ...

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When we love someone, we want for them the best.  We fight for and with them.  We push them to attack disease.  Is it possible that our very love can cause suffering?   Can we mistake our eternal love for each other with a futile fight for immortality?  Does our caring crush the ones for whom we care? In a fascinating article, the Wall Street Journal followed the terminal case of ...

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Today would have been easier if I did not give a damn.  Easier if patients were clients.  Easier if medical advice was causal suggestion.  Easier if I believed that patients were solely responsible for their health.  Easier if suffering was not real.  Much easier, if I did not care. However, despite the popular movement from “the doctor knows best” towards shared decision-making, I feel responsible for my patients.  What happens to ...

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There was a night when I was in training that all the decisions, disasters and chaos, which are the practice of medicine, caught up to me.  In those dark hours, I felt practically despondent.  What I had seen left me in tears and overwhelmed by the tasks in front of me. At that moment a wise attending physician took a moment to sit with me.  Rather than tell me how wonderful ...

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He had yellow nails, leather neck, stained teeth and a deep cough. He wheezed slightly, breathed too quickly and occasionally sprinkled the white handkerchief red. No surprise his ticket to my office was a lung mass to match. We talked about tests, treatment and prognosis.  About the future, probably short.  Devastated, he was not surprised.  He was reaping the reward of 30 smoking years.  He sadly admitted, “I knew better, ...

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On the day we cure cancer I will rise in morning dark.  I will stand in last night cold, and watch stars fade.  The light will come and a following breeze blow.  On that incredible dawn, there will be brilliance.  I will make sunrise rounds on the day we cure cancer. I will stay late and breakfast with my wife.  We will talk about flowers, kids and books. I will stand ...

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There was no mistake, but a bad thing has happened.  Despite the best efforts of the doctors, Bob’s wife is very sick.  Due to a rare side effect of treatment, her liver is failing.  Bob believes this could have been prevented. He is very mad. “When we go to see the doctor, he stares at the computer,” says Bob. “He does not look at us.  Most of the time, the doctor ...

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It is hard to lie to patients who are dying.  To look a fellow human in the eye and tell them “everything will be OK,” is painful.  To give treatment that is unlikely to work is emotionally exhausting.  To watch someone die having never been honest causes burnout. Denying the obvious spread of disease conflicts with what the patient perceives, and what the doctor knows. Even though the goal is to ...

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Ok, you caught me. I am mortal. After four score or so years, my body will fail and I will live no longer. Dust to dust. Not thrilled, but I expect most of you are the same. I have but two final requests. Let me end my life in peace, surrounded by family. Second, please, do not let me “pass”… I really want to die. Like you, I have struggled through ...

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To have cancer is to change forever.  It is a devastating declaration.  Each of us copes with the diagnosis differently.   How people adjust and move on with their lives are lessons in humanity. I take care of a patient who explained to me how he deals with incurable cancer.  Stan is active and able to enjoy grandchildren, friends and hobbies. He describes himself as happy, despite his terminal diagnosis.  The key ...

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Here is a toast to the miracle of love. Not to the romantic, chocolate, dance club nightlife type of love.  Not warm sandy beach vacation, new bigger home and grand Thanksgiving dinner love.  Not even baby’s first words love.  I mean power passion that gets us through the hard times, type of love. Edna and Ken are 90, married and both have active cancer.  They have been partners for 62 years.  ...

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There are two in the solitary sick room.  Between covers, attached to the IV, connected to the monitor, is the woman.  Cancer assaults her body and she lies trapped.  Constant at bedside is her son.  Whether day or night, weekend or day, he is there.  Always with the question, the concern, the anger. Through weeks of tests, pain and treatment, he is never satisfied. There is always something we are doing ...

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Estelle’s lipstick was apple-red and generous.  She did not limit its application to lips, but wore it in the general area of her mouth.  Together with pink rouge, color stood out brightly on her pale face.  She wore a threadbare dinner dress, years faded.  Estelle had dressed carefully for the visit and I showed respect. I met Estelle in the winter of her life.  92 years old, she lived by herself ...

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