Monday, September 06, 2010


It was the start of a new month.

A new academic year with a new batch of fellows.

And a young man’s life was about to be changed forever.
“My father arrives here Tuesday and I might not be here that day,” he told me. I must have looked puzzled. “He’s coming from overseas.”

“That should be nice,” I said, trying to sound interested as I typed my earlier case’s orders, eyes fixed on the computer.

“We just found out that he has cancer.”

I stopped, looked up from my keyboard.


“Lung cancer, squamous cell - already Stage IV. It’s so weird. One minute he has a little cough, goes to his doctor, gets a chest x-ray and has a huge mediastinal mass.” He stopped and tried to gather his composure.

“I’m so sorry. How old is he?”

“Sixty. Been healthy all his life. Doesn’t smoke.” He looked away.

“Take the month off if you need to,” I told him. “This can wait. Spend as much time with him as you need to – you’ll never regret it.”

“No, that’s okay…”

“I mean it. I had a similar circumstance with my father – had the luxury and support of my friends and colleagues and spent a much time as I could with him during his final days. We had a change to talk about lots of things and nothing, all at the same time. Sometimes I just sat and watched him sleep. I noticed little things, that I never appreciated before – like his hands – it was great just to be there. I realized those hands taught me a lot.

No doubt a successful doctor like you got where you are by his influence… Dads are important to sons.” I stopped, seeing him try to discretely wipe his tears.

Shifting, I asked: “Does he have insurance?”

“No. My wife and I will be self pay. She works. We’ll get by. What else are we put on this earth for anyway, if not for family…”

I listened. He went on with the details of his father’s visit that seemed so critical, at least to him: his father’s appointment schedule, possible treatment plans. But I could help but admire this young man’s resolve and commitment to his father.
“What else are we put on this earth for anyway… if not for family.”

I wished his father could have heard him say that.



Vijay said...

Wonderful post, Dr. Wes.

"What else are we put on this earth for anyway… if not for family."

This is a basic lesson wherever we are in the world. That's what I said in Tamil when I shared your post on twitter.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

wiping my own eyes.....

rlbates said...

Lovely! Sending good thoughts to this young man and his family.

Marco said...

That was a very touching post, Wes. Best regards to the young man, his Dad, and his family.

I once read a quote that "What counts on our life's journey is the people we connect to; the rest of the stuff which we pay way too much attention to, e.g. jobs, houses, etc. are minor."