Sometimes, I still hear from people in regards to Kendrie’s Caringbridge site (despite the fact it hasn’t been updated in over a year --- yikes!) by people who have stumbled across it by accident, been directed to it by others, or even better, been touched or encouraged by it. Occasionally, I hear from people who have been motivated to do good things (Go, Hilary! Kudos to you and your friends for donating blood --- it matters, and good for you! And to Briana and all you other TNT people out there --- you so totally rock!) Sometimes people will write and ask me for advice, if they know of a family who is struggling and wonder how they can help. And sometimes, I get asked for help myself. Prayer requests, treatment tips, website visits, fundraising --- and if at all possible, I help, because I remember how the help we received from others while going through Kendrie’s treatment was such a lifeline for us.
I received a request for help last week, although it wasn’t quite like anything I’d ever been asked for previously. A medical student named Megan is putting together a project – a “Dear Physicians of the Future” letter campaign, and wanted a contribution from me. I offered to ask others to contribute as well, and initially planned to send the request out strictly to the other cancer moms I know. Then it occurred to me; anyone could take part in this. Anyone with a sick child. Anyone with a healthy child who has ever been sick, even for something minor. Anyone who has ever been sick or visited a doctor for any reason (Hello, debilitating chest cold and disgusting stomach virus which are both currently sweeping the nation, thank you God for Purell, and knock on my wooden computer desk, is all I’m saying.)
So tonight I pass on her request, and a copy of my own letter, in the hopes that some of you might be so inclined to help her as well. With the success of her project, in the long run, WE, the patients, will benefit. So if you have a spare moment or two, please consider taking part. Contributions and/or questions can be sent to Megan at email@example.com
Dear Mrs. Escoe-
I came across your daughter's caringbridge site a few years ago via the site of another child who had a caringbridge page. My name is Megan and I am a first year medical student ... and I am writing to you because I need your help with something. As the parent of a child who had a serious illness, you know firsthand the importance of quality medical care. As part of one of my courses Reflections on Doctoring, I am putting together a compilation of letters from patients to future physicians. I know that this will be useful for future doctors like me to read about patients' and families' experiences and it will make us better doctors in the long run. What I am hoping you'll be able to do is write a letter entitled: Dear Future Physician and then tell me anything that you think would be important... maybe you liked the way a certain doctor treated you and the difference it made. Anything really... second, I am hoping that if it wouldn't be too much, you wouldn't mind asking your blog readers to send me some letters for this project as well (it seems you have quite a readership... and I think the stories and the difference this could make would be awesome). Let me know your thoughts on how to best run this project, and I hope to hear from you soon.
Dear Future Physician,
First of all, best of luck to you as you pursue this endeavor. My hope for you is that you find great satisfaction in the path you have chosen, and take pride in knowing the difference you can potentially make in people's lives in the future.
My letter regarding what was most important to me in the relationship I had with my daughter's doctor might be a bit skewed, as she was treated for a life-threatening illness; childhood leukemia. That's not to say the patients who come to you for routine check ups, ear infections, chickenpox, and the occasional broken arm or busted lip aren't just as important -- aren't going to be vested in your relationship -- but I believe the relationship we forged with our daughter's oncologist and his staff of amazing nurses, lab techs, and administrative personnel was perhaps closer than normal. I guess two and a half years of monthly, weekly, daily chemotherapy can do that to you! :)
I believe the part of our doctor's bedside manner that was the most helpful to me was the successful way he walked the fine line between being positive, yet never veering into the categories of "obnoxious" or "all-knowing". It was extremely helpful to me during this difficult, frightening time, that he maintained an attitude of competency without ever talking down to us or making us feel stupid for our (what were probably endless and stupid!) questions. His optimism that she would get well fostered an optimism in us, yet he made sure we never crossed the line into naiveté about the seriousness of her illness. His ability to see the hope in things encouraged us to see the hope. Patients want to know that their doctors are capable; we want to feel that we are a partner in our own care, and we want to feel that you care, as well.
I guess what I'm trying to say is to lead by example. If you want your patients to think highly of you, let them know you think highly of them. Take the time to listen ... and to encourage. A mutually respectful relationship between doctor and patient is very satisfying and (hopefully) rewarding for you as well. The way we were treated by her oncologist from day one fostered an immense amount of respect for him not only as a physician, but as a person as well. My wish would be that we could teach and train a nation of doctors as wonderful as him.
mom to Kendrie, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
dx Oct 03; off treatment Dec 05
PS. If you write a letter for Megan in the next few days, and forward it to me, I'll be happy to put it up on this site for others to read --- sort of a props to the wonderful doctors we all know and love.