Wednesday, April 20, 2011


His parents asked my permission before transferring him to my practice. They knew about Henry. I said I would take him before I thought about it, and then wondered about it. About a week later I was having a rough few days and decided that it was a bad idea....but things improved, and I didn't call them to cancel.

Evan (not his real name) was diagnosed with his cancer about the same time as Henry, at about the same age. He has done well. But that I mean he is currently growing, active, and cancer free.

I think on the wrong day I would have struggled with this visit. It made me miss Henry, but somehow in a pleasant way. I was able to wonder what he would be like at this age. Evan is struggling with some physical symptoms, some post-chemo sequelae..."Small potatoes", as his mother said, but still there nonetheless. He asked my nurse if she was putting in a PICC line when she brought in his shots. There is a lot of "Cancer" still living with that child, even if the cells are all gone.

I dreaded that possibility with Henry. I would trade it in a second to have him back, but I am able to be grateful that I am not Evan's parents, living with the "is-it-back" check up every three months. What a horrible burden to carry.

I shudder to think of the possibility of me needing to break any sort of news about a future recurrence. Some things are best left not worried about, I think this is one of them.

As a primary care doctor, you care about all of your patients, but you really relate to a select few. He and his family will be one of those for me.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


After Henry died, there was the usual business of visitors and planning his funeral services. We went through those days in pain but with purpose. As always happens, though, life flows back into the lives of those around you like the tide coming in, but you who are grieving are left in unfamiliar and unpleasant territory. For you, the tides have stopped.

I think it was our first weekend alone as a family after his death that we went to a local Civil War battlefield to ride bikes. It was horrible. I spent the whole day in daze, realizing that this was now what my family looked like. Henry wasn't here, and he never would be again. The day was full of hurt and tender grieving. When faced with the option of sitting at home doing nothing but grieving all day, the bike ride seemed a welcome option. Busy grief has proven to be easier to bear than non-busy grief, at least for me.

Two years have passed. We went back today to ride again, the four of us. Spring in the air, glad to be out of the house at last, we had a blast. The scenery was beautiful, the cool air not too cool, the exercise welcome to winter-weakened legs.

We laughed. We laughed so hard that at least two of us might have moistened our undergarments (but I won't say which two). There was no heaviness, no hurt...a family of four, out for a wonderful spring day. He was not with us today, the way he was the last time we rode. I tear up to say that, but he wasn't. Today it was just us, and it was really fun.

It is what it is. It doesn't mean we don't love him, and miss him desperately. We do. But we are moving on without him.