Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Simple Stitch

As eighteen year olds tend to be, Jake was lanky and awkward. His thick hands and muscular shoulders revealed a body far surpassing the maturity of his developing mind. But I could tell he was a good kid. He fidgeted in his chair as I walked through the door. We shook hands before I sat down to start the appointment. I looked up and waited for him to begin.

I have a lump, down there.

Hi eyes averted towards the ground. Many appointments have started this way. But unlucky for Jake, he actually had testicular cancer. After an ultrasound and a visit with his oncologist, he was back in my office.

After the surgery, will I be able to...

He swallowed hard.

You know.

Treatment was successful. By the time summer was over, he was ready to go to college. Over the next few years, we saw each other periodically. He would stop by for a physical during spring break. We chatted from time to time. Occasionally he would call from out of town to update me on one issue or another.

Jake was a cancer survivor, but he was young and healthy. He had his whole life in front of him.


Four years later, Jake walked into my office with a swagger I had never seen in him before. As we chatted, I noticed how the tone of his voice belayed a new sense of confidence. In the midst of talking, he interrupted me.

I've met someone!

After the obligatory talk about safe sex, I waited for him to continue. He told me about how it felt to be in love, about how his heart was full for the first time. I watched quietly like a father listening to his son. After a prolonged and hurried soliloquy, he eventually stopped and took a deep breath. I ventured forward cautiously.

So what brings you in today?

His eyes started to laugh before his lips could catch up.

That. Just to tell you that!


No matter how much the government tries to stomp on us, there will always be physicians. It's not the life and death that keeps people going into this profession. It's the time in between.

Day after day we open our doors to the details of the souls that pass through our examining rooms. We are present for the good, and the bad. If we are lucky, we play a small part.

We become a stitch, a simple knot.

In the fabric of someones life.


Diane said...

This really reached my heart.

Well written! A new favorite- will share.

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Excellent. I've already shared it with some medical students. Tonight I'm sharing your column with premeds at UTDallas.

Thank you.
With hope, Wendy