I recently consulted a specialist at a major medical center in New York, and a few days later, here came a questionnaire in the mail. "How much time did I spend in the waiting area?" it asked. How long was I kept waiting in the examining room? How close to my appointment time did the doctor see me? The one thing it didn't ask was whether I cared. There's no mystery about ...

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"You have no husband?"  asked an oncologist at an Ivy League cancer center, his voice full of concern. "No," I replied. "No sons?" "No." "No daughters?" "No." "No sisters or brothers?" "No." "Your parents -- are they living?" "No." When I mentioned friends and extended family, he talked right over me.  Without a nuclear family, he seemed to think, I had no one. I'd been diagnosed with stage four gallbladder cancer, usually fatal within months.  The surgeon who'd removed three-quarters of ...

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