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« Pushing to Your Limits--Part II | Main | When Breath Becomes Air -- Why It Succeeds »

January 22, 2016


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Bill Kleine

My oncologist and his wife made a movie with his good friend, a cardiologist and his wife as the cardiologist to share what he saw as meaningful as death approached. It was made for other cancer patients who must face the possibility of death. My favorite scene was these two men relaxing in the back yard enjoying life; laughing. It was special to me. My youngest daughter was good friends with the dying man's son when he was first diagnosed. They were in grade school when the cancer came and he knew about mine (then in a sustained remission), so they talked a lot together. His death took years; it wasn't apparently easy. His son hurt; he was angry at his dad. He also had regrets about the demands of his profession and what it took from his family. Long before his cancer I met this wonderful doctor. My mom's aorta was slowly dissecting and her doctor sent her to him: the only man who could fix it. He held her hands and her eyes as he examined her, as he talked to her; a personal conversation. Then he applied pressure to mom's most swollen knuckle-severe arthritis--and asked her to describe her pain, "oh, it bothers me sometimes." He asked about her sweat-shirt, the one with all 23 names of her grandchildren. He paused a moment, "you have a good life, don't you Mrs. Kleine." "I sure do." He explained the surgery and its many risks and asked, "is this what you want?" We went home, having met a good man who also happened to be a gifted surgeon. A man concerned with her. She didn't have the surgery and it took 3 years for her to die. I said his death appeared hard, but it really wasn't. It was full of family, friends, life, fun and more pain than anyone should have, just as my mom's was. Physical discomfort is nothing to dying with joy, surrounded by love. His son recently told me he tries to be more like his dad, as he was at home and as he was to his patients, every day of his own life.

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