My doctor has cancer


And I don’t know what to do with that.

I got a letter from him this week. Enclosed was a medical records release form. The first paragraph of the letter said that, in light of his “abrupt cancer diagnosis,” he was suspending his practice and advising his patients to find new primary care doctors. Hopefully, he said, he would be able to resume his practice after he had dealt with this health issue.

I really like this guy. I don’t know if he has a family, but he wears a wedding ring. He’s younger than my 56 years, positive and thorough, takes his time and listens during appointments, and is very patient, even with a hypochondriac patient like me. He is in very good shape and clearly exercises and eats right. He makes all the right choices and takes care of himself, knowing the relatively slim odds of contracting a terminal disease in his 40s or early 50s. Except…

I dropped him a note, letting him know we are thinking and praying for him, and making some lame jokes about how he needs to get better so that I can get back to wasting his time with my WebMD-enabled self-diagnosed false alarms.

But (since apparently I am not just clinically OCD but also narcissistic) I have spent the last few days wrestling with the revelation of his diagnosis and, naturally, how it affects me. Not from a medical care perspective, but from a “now how do I make good life choices?” perspective.

As I wrote a few weeks back, I am working hard to make progress on important things in life: writing in the morning, learning a new language and a musical instrument, eating and drinking right, exercising, etc.

Some of these activities are enjoyable. Most are more of a chore. Choosing to eat a salad also requires the choice not to eat doughnuts (mmm, doughhhhhnuts…..). Choosing to exercise also requires the choice not to sit comfortably watching TV. Choosing to get up early in the morning also requires the choice not to sit up late on the porch with my dog Bailey during on warm nights, having a glass of wine and listening to music and pondering the mysteries of life.

There is intrinsic reward in many of these good life choices, and perhaps I will look back when I’m 75 (less than 20 years from now… holy crap) and be glad I made those choices.

Or perhaps I’ll receive an abrupt cancer diagnosis next week. 

Jay Mohr once said that if the time scale of the universe is the length of a very long room, then our life spans are the equivalent of the thickness of the coat of paint on the wall at one end. And he’s probably overstating it. From that perspective, what difference does it make if I die 3 years early and 20… ok, 25, pounds overweight?

The other night I posted a pic on Facebook (see above) of me and Bailey on the porch, with the caption, “When God gives you a 60 degree night in February, I think you ought to take it.” I stayed out there until 1:30 a.m., and told myself that it was OK that I wasn’t writing in the morning, because I was jotting down notes of things that came to me in the porch swing.

I checked my notes in the morning. One was: “My young, fit doctor has cancer. What do I do with that?” 

There was no answer written below.


Did you like this post? Please share it (see the button below this box).