Terra Sigillata

This is growing tiresome and painful.

I have a wonderful physician-scientist research collaborator who, God bless her (or your own personal God-equivalent), takes care of little people with cancer. You’d think that a person who chooses this line of work would get a frickin’ karmic break, right?

I just learned that her brother died last week of brain cancer; I believe it was glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), not a good one, if there is such a thing. He is survived by his wife and 4-year-old daughter. I learned from her of his diagnosis at a cancer research meeting last November – what’s that?..eight months?

I have a 4-year-old daughter and it would pain me beyond belief to know that my wife would have to carry on with her alone if my genes dealt me a bad hand.

Yes, yes, we all have to die of something. Cancer rarely gives one a good death, but could we at least outlaw it for people under, I don’t know, maybe 70 or so.

I’ve gotta get back in the lab and do something useful – this is total bullshit.


  1. #1 anjou
    July 19, 2006

    Saddened to learn of your friend’s brother’s death. Cancer sucks– outlawing it for folks under 70 sounds like a wonderful idea, children especially!!

    Keep up the good work in the lab, maybe one day we will get there…….

  2. #2 SciMom
    July 19, 2006

    This is exactly what keeps me awake at night (see my blog entry: http://doubleloop.blogspot.com/2006/07/tumors-have-faces.html ). When I first started working in the area of brain tumors, I went to Tumor Board to learn more about the clnical approach to treating this disease. What struck me first as I flipped through the cases to be discussed were the ages – 26, 35, 47, 36. What the hell was going on? I know myself well enough to know that I went into the research aspect of cancer for a reason. I don’t go to Tumor Board anymore. Cancer sucks.

  3. #3 The Cheerful Oncologist
    July 19, 2006

    I pray that all oncologists never forget how devastating it is to have a friend or family member die of cancer. We docs are constantly at risk of developing “psychic numbing” (coined by Robert Hersey after the Hiroshima bombing), a disastrous trait cultivated only by years of self-centered indignation at the normal challenges one faces when caring for the dying.

    For what it’s worth, here is an old essay I wrote entitled “The True Meaning of Healing.” I hope it helps a little.

  4. #4 The Cheerful Oncologist
    July 19, 2006

    Sorry – I tried to link to that essay of mine, but it didn’t go through. The URL is


    another attempt at a link:

    The True Meaning of Healing

    Mea maxima culpa

  5. #5 Abel Pharmboy
    July 19, 2006

    No problem at all, Doc. I’m honored to have you come over to my little abode. I went ahead and fixed the links in both of your comments – the beauty of MovableType, although I resisted the urge to put another sentence in your comments such as, “Terra Sigillata is my favorite non-physician cancer blog.”

    In all seriousness, so many folks wanted to read your classic essay that “true meaning of healing” was one of the top search phrases today on Sb.

    Thanks again – you are blessed with a magnificient gift; your patients are incredibly fortunate to have such a thoughtful oncologist guiding them through one of the most difficult challenges of anyone’s life. Thanks!

  6. #6 Insider
    July 19, 2006

    So sorry.

    Kindest regards.

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