Today, over at Laura Munson’s blog, I found an amazing doctor. Dr. Gary Hammer, a rare-cancer specialist at University of Michigan, wrote an open letter to cancer patients everywhere. In it, he shows humility and grace.
Debunking the myth that a doctor has to maintain “objectivity” when treating patients, especially terminal ones, Dr. Hammer claims, instead, that vulnerability and grace open up for both patient and doctor. During an illness, when everything else has been stripped away, the patient and the witnesses, come to be present in a way that everyday life rarely offers.
When my husband, John, lay dying in a hospital bed, I witnessed heroic doctors and surgeons that never gave up on him or his treatment. John’s too was a rare cancer that most patients die from (quite often cholangiocarcinoma patients are given only months to live). But because of the tests at Mayo clinic, and the work of Dr. Gores, the cancer was found early for John and he was able to have a transplant, which saved his life.
Just as Dr. Hammer suggests, rubbing up close to death brings a vulnerability that John and I both experienced. Perhaps that is the lasting gift: stripping away the noise to reveal the vulnerable present.
Here is a link to Dr. Hammer’s letter: http://www.annarbor.com/health/the-roller-coaster-chronicles-an-open-letter-to-cancer-patients-everywhere/.