Being someone's physician, you get to see just one side of someone's life. You get to know about their previous ills. You probably understand much of the biochemistry that occurs in their bodies. However, not the more important things in life.
I was reminded of this this morning as I was doing my rounds, and happened to find out that one of my thyroid cancer patients recently lost his battle.
It was inevitable, the very aggressive kind that he had, but as inevitable as something might be, is still never acceptable in anyone's psyche. And so, when I had some quiet moments between consults just now, I spent some time reading up his obituary. If nothing else, just a private moment to remember him and celebrate his amazing life.
I found out he went to an Ivy-league school, and chaired numerous subcommittees. That he had an interest in the underpriviledged, and was active in social work. Though I had met his wife before, I read that they were sweethearts long before they got married. I read about his kids, that they have twins. I caught myself being in awe of Mr. G's humility- as his physician he never let on to me that he played such a big role in many people's lives.
I recalled too some months ago when Mr. T passed away. My clinic posts the newspaper obituaries of our deceased patients so that we can choose to sign their condolence cards. I found out that he was a World War II veteran, and a prisoner-of-war. That he was an airforce pilot and flew numerous bombing runs.
Or how another patient was involved in the Manhattan project, and the development of the atomic bomb.
No, these things hardly come up in the usual doctor-patient interactions. After all, the have little relevance in the diagnosis and treatment plans. Nonetheless, in the larger scheme of things, these are the events and moments that leave a bigger mark.
Goodbye Mr. G. You fought a short and hard battle- may you find eternal peace now wherever you may be.