I thought about Uncle John the other day. I do not know why Uncle John came to mind. It has been ten years since I drove him to various doctors and his cancer treatments. I also thought about the doctors who treated Uncle John. (Uncle John was the older brother to my Uncle Frank. Uncle Frank died a few weeks ago.)
Uncle John was in his mid-eighties when diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Several male doctors felt Uncle John was too old to be put through chemotherapy. But a female doctor felt Uncle John’s biological age was younger than his chronological age. Therefore, she felt he could be treated. Let us call her Dr. Good.
Dr. Good had a secretary we will call Ms. Conscientious. It was obvious that Dr. Good and Ms. Conscientious cared about their jobs and their patients. They made you feel special during the appointments. They were always cheerful.
Dr. Good started chemotherapy treatments for Uncle John. The tumor in Uncle John’s pancreas was shrinking! Things were looking good. Uncle John felt positive even though the treatments made him sick. And then Dr. Good was transferred. Her patients were turned over to Dr. Asshole and his secretary Ms. Sphincter.
We got spoiled with Dr. Good and Ms. Conscientious. Ms. Concientious did a lot for us that we did not know was not in her job description. She went above and beyond her duties for us. We found this out when we asked Ms. Sphincter for the same services. “That’s not my job,” Ms. Sphincter would say. “That’s not my job.” We never did find out what was Ms. Sphincter’s job was because she spent all her time telling us, “That’s not my job.”
Dr. Asshole and Ms. Sphincter never smiled. During our appointments, you could sense how Dr. Asshole felt overwhelmed. He made you feel as if you were a burden to him. He even said, during an appointment, that he had had too many patients. As a result, he was always late and miserable during our appointments.
Dr. Asshole canceled all the treatments and tests that Dr. Good had set up for Uncle John. And then Dr. Asshole arranged for Uncle John to be on palliative care.
The tumor was shrinking! There was no need to stop the treatments and resort to palliative care. But Dr. Asshole had too many patients. Putting Uncle John on palliative care was a way of getting rid of one. So he thought nothing of coldly telling Uncle John, “You’ve had a good life. Go home and make yourself comfortable.”
How Dr. Asshole’s words crushed Uncle John! He was dead in less than a year after Dr. Asshole had said them.
At the time, I did not realize that Dr. Asshole was reducing his patient list. If I had known, then I would have advocated for Uncle John’s treatments and tests to continue. What was the need for palliative care when the tumor was shrinking?
Too bad there weren’t more people like Dr. Good and Ms. Conscientious. These are people who love their work and communicate this love to everyone they encounter.
People like Dr. Good and Ms. Conscientious bring joy to the world. And this world can never get enough joy.