I do not know.

“Why me?” she asked me today in clinic.

I’m home and thinking and this question just will not leave me. Really, why? I honestly do not know why.  It is a plaguing question. Many have asked me and I search hard for the answer. I am not about to answer this sitting here on my couch that’s for sure.

I have taken refuge in science and in the minds of the scientists around me. Science has answered many questions for me and has given me the ability to come to patients and explain their disease. And it is important to me to explain disease. It’s why I became a physician.

I have spoken of my heroes who take chances for others and participate in clinical trials and research to help us answer the “why me’s?” When I first started working in the academic world I quickly found that science helps reveal truths and prevents bad practice. Collaborating with more minds helped me make better decisions for my patients. Today I share what I sometimes come home with and some of the questions that make me freeze and I simply say “I do not know.”


“How do you know you have the best treatment for me?”

“What if I could find a better treatment elsewhere?”

“There is this miracle drug in Mexico. Do you think this is a good idea?”

“I have radicalized my diet to fight this. What do you think?”

“Am I just a guinea pig?”

“So you are saying there is only a 5% benefit from this treatment and it has all those side-effects?”

“Why should I do this treatment? Isn’t there anything better?”


These questions linger in my mind and make me wonder. And I do not know the answers. I task my patients in being the answer, in helping me understand, in helping others. It truly is a sacrifice of a higher order, of our human nature. I have learned to be honest with them, share my thoughts, my biases, and my lack of knowledge. I sound unsure, incapable and incompetent as I argue my case in their presence against cancer. It is a huge undertaking to try to explain this disease. I often find myself saying ” I am a good salesman and I am about to sell you a crappy car”.

Our treatments though exciting and innovative are still primitive. Investing in clinical trials and basic science, and research is our only hope to fight against this crippling disease. How does on choose what is best for a patient in an evolving and erupting world of knowledge. I push the buttons of those around me that dare to challenge the life around us and dare to dream of cures. The Wright Brothers wanted to fly. They created models and tested them, now humans can fly. I work with incredible talent, that tests their ideas, and think about what’s next. And for those who know me – I do push hard.

Michael Henry, PhD, the Deputy Director for Research at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, has become more than a collaborator. Perhaps I can persuade him to talk to you about his research interests and how he made me see cells differently, opening my mind to the secrets of cancer biology and to ideas that contradict the normal we have come to accept. Together we are forging a stronghold in our understanding of cancer – our movement is only forward.

Thanks for reading.


Dr. Michael Henry and Mo
Dr. Michael Henry and Me

8 thoughts on “I do not know.

  1. Hi Mo,

    Thank you for following my blog. I’ve been having a look at yours and am thrilled to see how concerned you are for your patients and their well-being. Thank you!

    1. Osteosarcastic,
      I loved the name of your blog and enjoyed reading it. I completely agree standing up and laughing is the best thing you can do against this. I am inspired by your honesty and am learning more from you about my patients and what they could experience.


    2. Osteosarcastic,

      I read your blog and cannot imagine how you are dealing with this.. I to have cancer. Stage 3 melanoma. I understand your fear and shock and probably disbelief that you even have cancer when they told you.. I am still in shock and I was told in February this year.. You have motivated me to start a blog of my own.. I really enjoyed reading yours and I am hoping and praying for you to be cancer free forever.


  2. Mo,
    Since I have been diagnosed I have learned a lot about this terrible disease. I am getting very educated everyday. As a patient I have found myself thinking at times that you are this perfect doctor. (Granted you are amazing) but nobody is perfect except god…but that being said I know you have a lot on your plate as a doctor and patients think you are a miracle worker. That has got to be very hard for you. Reading all the questions that you stated in this blog is so true from a patients view. I myself have asked those questions.. I am so greatful for clinical trials and so very greatful that I am in the ipi trial… (You know me already about needles) enough said. So I want you to know from a patients view (and I know it is only one patient, me) that is telling you this.. But all i know is doctors like you are few and far between. I admire how driven you about this disease and finding a cure. So I am very thankful that I have met dr. Bayon, who led me to you. My amazing doctor of science..:)

    1. Your words are kind and special. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and allowing me a chance to participate in your care. I have struggled on my own journey of life in finding answers . Melanoma and cancer in general has taught me how to help others. You are a hero in helping others. I stand by you all the way.

      1. Mo,

        Thank you for the reply. I am making a change in my life to really share all of your information and all of what I have read on melanoma from being connected to twitter and Facebook. (It is sad that it took cancer to get me to do this). But I believe god has a plan for me and I really believe that the enlarged lymphnode on my neck that I discovered in February was a sign from god to wake up to him and pay attention to my life and appreciate it. So I hope to start a chain reaction not only with my family but anyone I know or meet in my life..
        So once again I have to say to my doctor of science.

        Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


        1. Clarie

          Some of the biggest advocates of cancer are those afflicted with the disease. I applaud your efforts and your passion. You are very welcome.


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