When It is Your Mother

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

NOVEMBER 20, 2017

This is an introduction to a very lovely essay from The New York Times about a doctor's experience with his mother's cancer. I think you could replace "mother" with "wife" or "sister", and it would be about the same. "Daughter" would be different, I think--and perhaps even more painful.

Here it is:

When the Doctor’s Mother Has Cancer

By MIKKAEL A. SEKERES, M.D.

“I want you to talk to me like I’m one of your patients, not like I’m your mother.” My mom’s familiar voice came over the car’s speakers via the Bluetooth connection to my phone as I drove home. She had left a voicemail an hour earlier asking me to call her back, which was never a good sign. My mother, still working as an administrator in Rhode Island at age 74, was not the type to mince words, nor ask for a return call to discuss trivialities. I asked her what was going on.

“I had a cold that wasn’t getting any better, so I went to an urgent care clinic to get some antibiotics.” I avoided the temptation to remind her that most colds were viral, and that antibiotics don’t alter their duration. Naturally, she knew that I would tell her that, and thus she didn’t mention she was going to urgent care in the first place. So it goes with mothers and sons, particularly when one of those sons is a doctor. She continued.

“They took a chest X-ray, and my doctor called me the next day to tell me they found a ‘shadow’ in my left lung and that I needed to get a CT scan of my chest.” By this point I was holding my breath, bracing myself for what would come next: The beginning of every cancer story, when the seemingly innocent cough, dizziness or common cold takes a sinister turn and the unexpected replaces what was expected.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/31/well/live/when-the-doctors-mother-has-cancer.html