Saturday, August 6, 2011

More than just a brave man

Social interactions during a patient visit usually are most enjoyable and enlightening for me.

I've actually always sort of prided myself in getting to know folks in the midst of a medical encounter.

Reading an obituary on a patient of mine, however, high-lited a missed opportunity.

Mr. C. was an incredibly brave and stoic man.

When I first met him he had already been diagnosed with three different cancers.

He was being followed at an acclaimed cancer treatment center.

He was on some accepted chemotherapy regimens, as well as some investigative trials.

In my role as a primary care physician, I admittedly felt overwhelmed in trying to counsel him whenever he would ask me questions such as "what do you think of this trial"?

I often wondered why I needed to see him because I never felt qualified to give much insight in to his current treatment or guidance on some of the various side effects he was experiencing.

I admittedly tried to keep the appointments as short as possible.

I never really got to know him as someone other than the unfortunate man with three different primary cancers, who appeared extremely brave.

I read his obituary yesterday.

He is survived by his wife of  44 years. He joined the Air Force after high school and was active duty for 4 years. After serving, he went to college, played basketball, broke every offensive record and was named to the All-America team in 1965. He was a successful small business owner and raised two children who went on to be college athletes and are now parents and productive members of society. His daughter is a teacher and his son is an attorney.

In retrospect, I sure wish I would have taken the time to get to know him better while he was alive, despite how uncomfortable I was in seeing him.

My loss; lesson learned.

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