Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sharing Stories

I saw Mr. D for follow-up earlier this week.
He was found to have a non-functional pituitary macroadenoma causing visual problems, for which he underwent surgery many years ago. I had been his endocrinologist for 2 years now, focusing on the issues relevant to me. In this case, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism.
However, looking back at his records, he was also diagnosed with esophageal cancer 3 years ago. Though not directly relevant to his follow-up with me, my ears perked up, just because of what my Buddy is going through now. He was the last patient of the day for me, and had nowhere to go, so we talked.
From his description, probably Stage 3. Diagnosed when he was 68 years old. He went through chemotherapy, followed by surgery. 3 years out, he's still disease free and followed closely by the oncologists.
He's now an unofficial spokesperson for cancer patients. He tells me he meets, counsels and encourages cancer patients and their families. More than just talking to doctors, most patients also want to hear another patient's perspective, for some strength. Hope.
He tells me he just met with a lady whose husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He shared with her how he found strength, coped. He listened.
This gentle, bespectacled kindly-looking white-haired man of 71 years of age. I can't imagine a more peaceful face.
And so I shared with him the story of Buddy. He frowns his burrowed brows, he says how it's not fair, because he's in his 70s but Buddy is not yet 30 and is a budding oncologist. But, he shares with me that he's doing well so far, and if he can do it, perhaps so can Buddy. We both agree that these things remind us that life shouldn't be taken for granted, and that cancer is a terrible disease, and we need to keep working to find a cure.
Talking to doctors, sometimes you get an overly logical, evidence-based, methodical perspective (which is alright, after all we have to base our treatments on science, not hearsay). But sometimes, being overly logical probably doesn't allow much for hope, faith or miracles. Sometimes, we need to hear from the patients to remind us of things that are possible.
Mr. D offers to talk to Buddy and tells me to give Buddy his contact number; I tell him I can't for confidentiality purposes. But he takes down Buddy's website address. And promises that he'll say a prayer for his recovery.
I stop short of giving him a hug. But, as an afterthought, I remove the bracelet Buddy and Buddiette are making for friends and family, and give it to Mr. D.
He looks at it, smiles gratefully.
"Cancer Sucks, God Heals. TS & TY"
Until his next visit, we shake hands and say our goodbyes.