November 25, 2010

am I my brother's keeper?

"Tell me, can this radioisotope kill the tumors or is it just to relieve the pain?"

I pause.  What do I say?  I tell the truth, at least as far as I know it to be true.  "It's to alleviate the pain."

"So they can grow back.....What's the point?"

Those conversations are hard, which is to grossly understate the nature of the matter.  I've had people tell me that I don't need to be my brother's doc, so to speak.  I can just be his brother.  And my answer to that?  "Bullshit."  When my brother asks me questions like the one above, how can I walk away from that?  What man could look his brother in the eye and have the brazen cowardice to walk away?  To be honest, I'd rather be hit repeatedly with a 2x4 across my head than to have to answer those types of questions from him.  No....that's not true.  I hate the circumstances that have brought about the necessity of questions like those.  I did not ask to bear the crux of those types of questions.  They hurt to answer.  I answer them as even keeled as I can.  I hold back the emotion and let it out later.  And I've had a lot of those types of conversations lately, and not just with my brother either.  They're emotionally gruelling and they take their toll on me.  But then my brother didn't ask for this disease and his pain.  Bony tumors hurt.  Chemo hurts.  Radiation hurts.  Getting stuck hundreds of times with needles hurts.  Watching him talk to his kids 300 miles away hurts.  And so while my pain is real and sometimes aches so deep as to hurt viscerally, I will honor that connection we share no matter how much it hurts.  Cain, who whined, "am I my brother's keeper?", was a coward and a shell of a man, after all.

1 comment:

Steve Parker, M.D. said...

You're a good man, Isaac.

This experience will make you a better doctor than most of your classmates, I think. That's little consolation at this point. You and your brother are in my prayers.