Billy Rubin

The adventures of a pre-clerkship medical student.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bad news

They sat in the waiting room, not knowing what to expect. It had been two weeks since he had discovered an egg-sized lump in his groin. He called his family doctor and made an appointment. Upon seeing the physician, the mass did a disappearing act. It had taken a couple of trips back, but the doctor had finally found the mass he had felt. Within a day or two he had been sent to a specialist. Upon examining him, the doctor was obviously shocked. Disquieted by this, he repeated asked what was wrong. But no answer had been forthcoming. The doctor simply said she couldn't be sure until the lab tests come back. And now he sat, wife by his side, in his GP's waiting room, wondering what secrets those lab tests would reveal.

The GP walked out and called them into her office. They sat. The doctor began to cry.

"Tell us what's wrong?"

"You're full of it!"

"I know he's full of it, I've been telling him that for years!" his wife joked.

The doctor sobbed. "You're full of cancer!"

He began to cry. Large tears rolled down his cheeks. He shook as waves of grief rolled over him.

In twenty-five years of practice, she had never had to give someone such a bad report. The prognosis was poor. She was as devastated as he. Together doctor and patient wept. She had had the uneviable job of telling him he had cancer and he had had the uneviable job of hearing it.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Kim said...

Man, you don't find that level of empathy very often in medicine. I'm sure it exist but is repressed under the facade of "professionalism".

It can't be easy telling someone they are terminal.

Great story.

1:32 PM  
Blogger William Rubin said...

I can't imagine what it would be like to have to tell someone they have a terminal disease.

9:42 PM  

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