Thursday, October 25, 2007


The medical team consulted me to evaluate one of their patients because they found what looked like colon cancer on a CT scan. They later confirmed it with a colonoscopy, which found a mass in her colon consistent with colon cancer. I went to her bedside later that afternoon and found an lady in her mid-60's laying in bed with her husband sitting by her.

They had the weathered look of people that live off the land. Their skin was deeply wrinkled and leathered, showing evidence of years spent working under the sun. They were simple folk, and in the first few minutes of making small talk, I found that they were shrimpers.

I looked at the two, and they reminded me of my own parents. How hard they worked to make a living. Like my parents, they also only had a high school education and made the best of what opportunities was available to them.

She had finally come to the hospital because her husband pretty much dragged her in. When I asked her why she didn't come to the hospital sooner for her symptoms, she simply told me that she was afraid we'd find something wrong. Logic which makes sense, but is deeply flawed.

I had reviewed the CT scan before coming to see them, so I knew that her cancer had spread into her liver. And from the laboratory results, I knew that she was in early liver failure. A bad sign. I told them of my findings. I told them the treatment options, and that at this point, the only thing we could offer was palliative treatment. And as much as I hate it, I told them the truth: she only had several weeks to live. Maybe a couple months at best.

They looked at each other and hugged each other tight. And just like what I told my mother when we found out she had cancer, the husband told his frightened wife that she will beat the cancer.

Mrs. P: [trembling] Doctor, why did this happen? What did I do wrong?


You did nothing wrong.

Mrs. P died less than a week later from massive liver failure.
She was 63.