“Resilience, inventiveness, and survivorship– qualities often ascribed to great physicians– are reflected qualities, emanating first from those who struggle with illness and only then mirrored by those who treat them. If the history of medicine is told through the stories of doctors, it is because their contributions stand in place of the more substantive heroism of their patients.” ― Siddhartha Mukherjee
Reading Mukherjee’s impressive history of cancer treatment has made me even more aware of how much we owe to earlier generations of patients. These pioneers endured extreme discomfort, agony and even death from experimental treatments. Their determination and courage enabled the medical advances that save so many of our lives today. As in every other area of life, we benefit from the sacrifices of thousands of people whose names we will never know.
Illness takes no holidays, and medical crises have no predictable calendar. We all know people who are dealing with serious illness this season, unable to enjoy the festive cheer with the lightheartedness that is possible for those of us in good health. I hope we will remember these friends in some way. A personal note, a heartfelt prayer, a visit or call or small gift; any gesture that will acknowledge their trials, and let them know they are not forgotten in the rush of December. One of the best ways to defeat despair is to brighten someone else’s day, especially this time of year.
This post was first published seven years ago today. Looking at it, I am amazed at Jeff’s stamina. When this photo was taken, he was himself less than five months recovered from a three-week hospital stay at Walter Reed in November and December of the previous year, after nearly dying during a marathon surgery that lasted all one day and into the next, his being kept deeply sleeping overnight while his surgeons took a brief respite. I’m also amazed at my son Matthew, who has suffered so much for so long, yet continues to love people and life with an enthusiasm that has never left him. Reflecting on my close association with these two remarkable men, I cannot feel as sorry for myself as I sometimes do. I’m thankful these posts remind me of how blessed I have been.
The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.