“Stay out of trouble”

“Nice to meet you Dr. Mayhem” he said mispronouncing my last name, but he had me smiling. “A pleasure to meet you too” I replied to my newly formed friend. In the background of the clinic, the laughter this word created reaches out to my depths and pulls out something I have longed to share. If you have seen me in clinic many times, my closing statement to each of my patient is “stay out of trouble.” It’s like my signature. I want to blog about what that actually means and why I say it.

I will start by asking “the” difficult question. One you all know but maybe have never dared to ask. When a patient first gets diagnosed with cancer, be it melanoma or sarcoma or any other type, where do you think their mind goes? In my practice I have watched as my patients go to thoughts of death first. This is exceptionally vivid when I am the one who introduces this particular thought to them.  There is an awkward silence that usually follows. It is not awkward for me as I am the one being silent. This is broken on many occasions by a deep sadness, an overwhelming emotion that fills tears in everyone’s eyes who are watching. I create the space in time to accommodate and acknowledge this feeling. Silence has an end, it is not never-ending. My patients get into “trouble” trying to understand their cancer, their disease, their plan and how it is to be executed.  They are never left to do this alone. I will admit that initially they are lead to believe they are.

Truth has a responsibility of being clear, sharp and honest. Telling a patient that they have a terminal cancer is no easy task. Yet I do that daily, begging the question from the observers of “how do you do this?”  To answer this statement of “stay out of trouble”, when asked to do the same, I end up saying “no I will not” because I am at the heart of it.  I have marveled at the psychology of the irrational fear of death that drives us towards a helplessness that cripples us to give up. I journey deep into these “hot waters” pulling my patients out of an irreversible outcome. No one does it better than the person on this journey and I end up learning so much from each of my friends as they face this certainty. So I walk beside them and find myself saying simply “stay out of trouble”.

I usually say it as I leave the room; I point and stare deep into my friend’s eyes as I say it. I mean it; it is a real, reflex almost. I fought hard to get them out of the tribulation that they are being faced with. I want them to live fully and embrace what moments they have left. As important, I also point at those around them reminding them of the diamond that sits amongst them, that soon they may be forced to part with.

Stay out of trouble my friends.




4 thoughts on ““Stay out of trouble”

  1. Mo,
    As I sat here today and read your blog like I look forward to on Wednesdays this one really hit home to me. You really do connect with the patient about what they are feeling and dealing with on a day to day basis. I have thought and read and cried a lot about this melanoma. I am NED right now but I am still hoping for NED for many many years to come.
    I have to have faith and hope everyday Mo and when I read this today it was really hard to read those words.. I want to keep my diamond for as long as the lord gives me. I will walk this journey with my amazing doctor
    of science and my wonderful husband and daughter.. You are a gift to so many melanomies..
    Thank you,
    Claire (your #1 fan)

  2. Dr. Mo I have been reading your blogs for about 9 mths
    Now…since I lost my cousin, my best friend, I can
    Not thank you enough for sharing every thing
    You do….I look forward to every Wednesday to read
    What you have blog for the week…it is like therapy
    For me it helps me in so many ways…sometimes it makes me
    Sad, sometimes I laugh, and sometimes I cry….
    But it soothes my heart knowing that (you ) her Dr.
    Gives everything and more to walk w your patients ,
    To fight the fight right along with them….you are one of a
    Kind Dr. Mo a blessing to so many people…you are truly one
    Of Gods precious gifts…thank you for all that you do!!
    God Bless You Dr. Mo !!!

  3. I just wanted to thank you for making my sister Christine Hanson feel so well cared for. She cannot say enough wonderful things about you and she is very appreciative all the great care and attention that you provide her and all of your patients. A very big Hug and heart felt thanks Carolyn Chase Sent from my iPad


  4. Thanks for explaining your words. I am ever grateful to you and all my UIHC caregivers!

    Sent from my iPad


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