Being a doctor.

I am a kind of timid. I hate seeing a doctor for health problem. I won't see him/her until I get a serious problem. When I have some health problem, I would consider of the possible cause for the problem. I am inclined to diagnose pessimistically by myself. So far, I haven't made correct diagnosis for myself yet.

About 20 years ago, when I worked at a hospital, I had a colleague doctor who had finished the postgraduate school specializing in Pathology. I wondered why he has returned to clinical medicine since Pathology is a basic medicine and has probably promised him a career as a researcher. He had taken days off for a few days. It didn't seem to be a vacation for him. When I came across with him in the hospital after his coming back, I asked what had happened to him. He answered to me, as if he had had nothing special, he got lung cancer with metastasis to brain. He seemed to have had chemo and radiation therapy. I fully understood what brought him back to the clinical work at the hospital away from his career as a researcher. He looked straight at me and told what stage of the illness he had been in. as if he introduced his case in conference to me.

It was me who had been surprised to hear that. What conflict has he had in his mind? It was beyond my imagination. He had worked there for a few years since I quit the hospital. So far as a person working with him told me later, he had worked until very last moment of his illness. In the end, he has been transferred from the hospital to a med school hospital on an ambulance car. He has given indications for the drip infusion to the personnel in the ambulance car by himself.

When I heard of this story, I wondered what a job a medical doctor should go on for. It is really a hard job, not only physically but also mentally. He has worked hard for his patients; I have heard he was a doctor of capability and was relied on by his patients. He has had own such a problem, which he must have known what outcome he could expect. Curtailing his own life, he has worked hard for them. I wonder his knowledge of the ultimate outcome has relieved him or has strained him. It might he;p him to prepare for that. But, seemingly, no relief to him, I guess.

I wonder if I could live at the last moment of life as he did in his life. Being a medical doctor, we might have the bright side as well as the dark gloomy side in our lives. It might be a Karma for doctors. Hopefully, I would accept it as it is.


  1. A year or so ago, I had a small problem with a melanoma on my leg. In retrospect, it was comical, but at the time of the visit my my Doctor (Jim Pruitt), I had misunderstood a critical part of what he was telling me. As I listened to him , I hear him say that it was Clarke's level three, a measurement of the thickness of the tumor. Upon returning to my shop, I looked up Melanoma level three. What I got scared me. Ultimately, the tumor was stage 1B, but for about a week, I thought it was Stage three cancer with a life expectancy of something in the five year range. It caused me to think deeply about what was important to me.

    To your story about your Doctor friend. I am not a doctor, but suspect his medical knowledge gave him something the rest of us don't have. That being some sense of certainty. Personal mortality is a joke when you are young, but becomes such an immense reality when you are older. My small experience with the melanoma gave me the first real look at exactly how I was going to handle my own departure. I had no idea what to expect during those "final five years", so it was still quite intimidating to me. My biggest fear was becoming a tomato. Your doctor friend had knowledge from his medical training about how things would go. He was able to prioritize his desires. In his case, it sounds like working was his chosen way to spend his final time. That, of course, is hugely admirable, very unselfish on his part. My character would probably go the other way. Some final attempt to complete my list of things to do, experiences to be had, places to see. The "Bucket List" as they call it.

    My good friend and Doctor Jim Pruitt left practice a bit over a year ago. He was diagnosed with Leukemia. I have yet to replace him. Like you, I tend to wait until whatever issue I have is catastrophic before seeing a physician.

    1. Hi Don,

      I haven't heard you for a while. I was afraid you might have fallen asleep on the chair beside the fireplace in the back yard, so that you could catch a cold. It seems you are doing OK.

      For us medical doctors, there are two problems when we face to some fatal illness. One is the same as you think of. To realize the bucket list, to stay in own room listening to Bach or to meet old friends, whatever will be fine. Only becoming a tomato is not cool at all. I have lived my life as I would like to. No complaints for my life any longer. The only things to do is how to accept it and how to overcome the possible agony going through dying.

      The problem particular for doctors might be that we should care for the patients while we suffer more than them. Since I fully retired, this won't be a problem for me. That colleague doctor and the doctors possibly affected by Ebola virus might have had this kind of problem. It may double the stress of working for the patients could relieve them of their anxiety of own problem. It is a karma for medical doctors, I guess. I have not discussed about this with that guy at all. His countenance was decisive now allowing me to talk about such a thing at that time. I just wonder what he has thought about it.

      I am pleased to know your stage of the melanoma was only IB, which is crucially differenet from stage III. If you were in stage III, we won't be able to know each other in this way. Take care. Keep up your activity. Taking much veggies is also important, needless to say.