Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Letter #10

Dear Future Physician,

Thank you for choosing this career and life path. I will be forever grateful to the physicians who cared for my daughter as she fought leukemia.

What would I want you to know? That sometimes, in the blink of an eye, life can change. One day, you are going about your business, doing all the important day to day things that you usually do and then WHAM! you hear words that change your life. These words are delivered by physicians. These words are words you wish you never had to hear. These words, in our case, were "your daughter has leukemia".

I'd want you to think about the fact that it's mind numbing and dizzying to hear words like this. I'd want you to know that there is never any way, ever, that someone can be prepared for such news. I'd hope that you'd be straightforward yet compassionate in delivering news like this. Remember, oncologists treat cancer but general physicians and pediatricians are the ones who have to break the news to people that they have cancer.

If you are treating someone (or someone's child) who has a life threatening illness, I'd ask you to be understanding and kind and informative. I would hope that you would answer even the dumbest of questions without talking down to us. I would hope that you would, in addition to treating our child, help us as we learn the "medspeak" that is Greek to us (at least at the start of the journey). Please don't put down information that we have learned from others, especially other parents who have traveled this road before us. Please do remind us that support groups, especially ones with parents who are also in our situation, can be a life saver.

Please don't take for granted that we know what you are talking about or understand what you are saying when the protocol is first laid out. Sometimes, news is so overwhelming, either emotionally or beyond our limited understanding of medicine, that we are simply unable to grasp what is being said. Please don't dismiss our fears or our questions.

Please also realize, that those of us who have been at it a while, may have a huge understanding of the medical protocol being used to treat our child. As a parent of a child who underwent more than 2 years of chemotherapy, I gained quite a bit of knowledge as the treatment progressed. I would ask that you understand that a parent who is experienced with the protocol feels belittled when medical personnel talk down to them. After a year of being on the front line of a war going on in your child's body, you have gained enormous insight into the medical ramifications and complications of treatment.

Lastly, I'd want you to remember that you are only human. You will make mistakes, everyone does. Own them, but don't let them own you.

Thank you,


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