This is a difficult blog for many reasons that I will not divulge. But I will take you to where I am. 

Immerse your head under water at a poolside. Around the pool you can hear the loudness of all the people around you. You dip your head to dive beneath the water. As you dive deeper these voices fade and become muffled. Submerged you know there is something out there but you are unable to understand it.  There is some security in not being able to hear exactly what is being said. In the water you feel somehow protected, but vulnerable because of this perceived security. Those standing outside the pool talking about you, trying to explain complexity to you. You hear a little but you choose to stay secure. This is where my patients go when they are diagnosed. When what I say to them does not quite sink in. That they do not fully grasp what I am saying. This is how I am feeling.

There is a movie called Mask in 1985, it’s images cross my mind. The boy in it has a rare disease, and he attempts to share what he understands about color with a blind girl. He takes a stone and explains blue by placing it in a freezer and then giving it to her. He explains red by giving her a stone that was thrust into hot coals.  I was 14 when I watched this movie. Incredibly done to truly explain color. Blue=cold, red=hot. Blind, deaf, or disabled. Can we as physicians really be sensitive to communicating accurately the true nature of cancer? Are we aware of the refraction index of our knowledge that feels to a patient like voices striking water while they are fully submerged? How can we measure understanding? How do we engage our patients in helping them make the right choices? Can I make them see color or feel it if they are blind?

30 min. That is the standard clinic slot for a patient. Seriously, is this the “business” of medicine?  What happened to the art of healing? Can I tell someone their leg needs to be amputated in such a short time?  It is vitally important for me to offer each patient a chance to understand their disease. Sometimes in giving clarity, truth is not kind.

Muffled is the outside voices. The truth cutting its way through. I sit in silence, my greatest teacher. Can I help my patient reach the surface to hear me loud and clear?


9 thoughts on “Muffled.

  1. Dr. Mo. My wife (Kelly) was one of your patients last year. Unfortunately she passed away from the horrible disease. We were both very lucky to have you as her doctor. Not once did I feel that you did not do all that you could. you answered every question and never gave up on her. I do miss her terribly however I take comfort in knowing that she has the best Dr. in her corner. I would not change a thing in the care that you and your staff provided. You have a tough job, but please know that you have a gift and you really do make a difference. Thank you
    Chad Bender

  2. Reblogged this on Mo and commented:

    Cancer interrupts lives. It takes away from our present moment like a thief, stealing what was dismissed but is really precious. This is what she taught me when she came to see me today. I share with you an old blog. Muffled are the voices around me.

  3. Mo,
    Boy I am just starting this journey with you and your right all the way you are really in a fog, disbelief, muffled are the sounds that come from you at first… but when it comes to such news to a person, especially the word cancer you are in such shock that it has taken me till now to really process what has happened… You know I have always been so afraid of doctors all my life.. but there is something about you that has really calmed me when I come see you.. As well as your great staff.. I know your not god but he gave you the ability to help educate and heal anyone that comes through your doors…That is such a gift Mo and you have it.. I know you cannot cure everyone but you give them HOPE and a will to try to go on and live…I am grateful I have you as my doctor and I would not trade it for anything..
    The good can come with the bad and I expect that.. But trying to stay focused and positive and having you as my amazing doctor of science in my corner is priceless…I really believe God brought John and I to you for a reason… To give us hope and to find a cure for this beast….
    Thank you,

  4. Dr. Mo, You are awesome and God sent, I truly believe that. You were there when I needed you and you took time to talk to me. Your words here, shows just how special you are. I am blessed to have been in your care. You are an inspiration, an angel, a hero in more ways than one. Thank you for your words here.

  5. My 26 year old husband was diagnosed with metastatic GIST last October. His Oncology team spends 20 mins with us once a month, it’s just not enough. She doesn’t have time to explain things and I feel like we are living in the dark.. Everyday is a mystery, and we are unsure of the future. We are coming up on our second wedding anniversary, and the anniversary of his diagnosis. Those in the medical community need to go back to having exemplary bedside manner– and the best thing doctors can do for their patients is give them more time.

  6. Docteur Mo, c’est encore un plaisir de vous lire. Je me permets de laisser un commentaire en Francais, vous comprendrez que c’est plus facile pour moi. Votre article d’aujourd’hui “muffled” me fait revenir en octobre 2012 ou l’on a appris que mon epoux avait un melanome malin. Nous aussi nous nous sommes laisses couler, puis quand nous avons touche le fond, nous avons donne un grand coup et nous sommes remontes a la surface et la, nous vous avons rencontre avec toute votre equipe. Nous vous avons ecoutes et entendus. Merci pour tout ce que vous faites pour vos patients. Toujours a l’ecoute, disponible, courageux… tant de qualites pour vous decrire… En bref, nous avons besoin de vous, il n’y a pas assez de personnes dans ce monde ayant une philosophie si humaine de la vie. Bonne journee et a bientot.

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