FROM OUR EXPERTS
Some of you may have felt that my last column was insensitive. In that essay, I was suggesting that you might not have cancer that needed treatment, and so I didn’t pay attention to the very real fears that you have – whether or not you were seriously ill.
But I do take cancer seriously. Having had it twice, I know how bad the midnight anxiety can be;
I know that the mere word itself can send shivers through the bravest man. So let me devote a few words to those fears. Let me name some of them:
• I’m going to die.
• I’m going to be impotent.
• My wife (partner) is going to leave me.
• I’m going to be incontinent.
• I’m going to be in pain.
I’ve felt all of these fears – and more. And I’ve learned how to deal with them – at least partially.
As I suggested in last week’s essay, the first thing to do is to get a firm grip on the facts . Do you have cancer or just an elevated PSA ? Is it a serious enough cancer that you need treatment? If so, what kind of treatment do you need?
I have long been a fan of Dr. Jerome Groopman, a world famous oncologist and Harvard Medical School professor, who writes for the New Yorker . He has a new book out called How Doctors Think (Houghton Mifflin Company). I haven't read the entire book yet but have reviewed several excerpts that ran in the New Yorker . The other night I caught Groopman on the Stephen Colbert show, where he articulated some of the book's main ideas. Dr. Jerome Groopman appeared on Comedy Central's Colbert Report on 3/19/07 . Groopman's thesis is that doctors make mistakes diagnosing patients, usually because they are making snap assumptions from their guts about what's wrong with their patients, and not using their brains enough. You have to like a doctor who admits that he and his colleagues make mistakes. A fellow New Yorker regular and Harvard Medical School faculty member, Atul Gawande, covered similar terrain in his debut book, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imper...
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