The Cheerful Oncologist has some of the finest and most sensitive writing to be found. Dr. Hildreth is a prototype for the kind of physician I want when I see a doctor. His essays are studies in poetic beauty with a rare gift for embracing life in all its wonder, squeezing out every drop until the very, very end.
This time, however, he is - excuse the expression - dead serious.
Crucial information about the patient's symptoms and medical past are recorded and then a key question is asked which brings a pause, like a penitent admitting a mortal sin in the dark-curtained booth. The confessor's response can frequently portend both the final diagnosis and the prognosis. The question is, "Do you smoke cigarettes?"
Patients who answer yes can be considered to have lung cancer until proven otherwise.
"Doc, I haven't been sick my entire life but for the last couple of weeks I've been coughing and getting short of breath," he said, "and my right hand is cramping up on me." On exam his right hand had more than muscle spasms - it was nearly paralyzed. Within a day he was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. The remainder of his life could now be seen as clearly as a mountain appearing out of the misty clouds, a coffin resting on its peak.
Strong stuff from a guy who should know, an oncologist.
Tiresome old subject.
Same old message.
And how many people still haven't caught on?
Friends don't let friends drive drunk. But they still let them get away with upping the risk of cancer by smoking. Telling people is no longer news. In fact, it could be inflamatory and subject to put scar tissue on a relationship.
Maybe by some carelessness this message can be discovered "accidentally" by someone who needs another nudge.
I came across this wonderful comment at Summa Contra Mundum:
Tobacco companies have been forced to fund advertisements that, by and large, denounce them as evil empires bent on conquering the world through lung cancer. Since television is far more damaging to the human person than tobacco use, perhaps the networks and cable companies ought to be forced to fund advertisements exposing them for the vacuous, immoral flesh-peddlers that they are.
Maybe there should be a warning label on televisions: "Watching television has been demonstrated to cause attention-deficit disorder, stupidity, moral decay, impure thoughts, and spending money on products you don't need. The Surgeon General has recommended that no-one watch this tripe. Happy Viewing!"