My surely skewed teenage memory recalls my aunt and uncle as similar to the Dursleys of Harry Potter fame. Oh, they were well-intended. But they were as committed as the most fervent evangelists to taming a teen girl raised in Miami. They were convinced I brought to their heartland all the evils of a tropical and contemporary Sodom and Gomorrah.
Our oncologist is from Louisiana. He received his medical degree from Louisiana State University in NOLA. My Yankee friends can just hush now, because we really do have some swell medical schools in the South. Besides; he earned himself a fellowship at Harvard, which adds to his cred. And we knew from our first appointment that he is bona fide. Dr. G actually makes eye contact with us during office visits. He calls to check on Lewis after hours. And he recently chased me down in a hospital parking lot to deliver some good news about Lewis' cardiac functions.
My Minnesota uncle was a physician. One of those small town general practitioners who may or may not exist anymore. He was a husband, father, uncle, and friend. But he was first and foremost a doctor to all who knew him. Indeed, his identity was inseparable from his vocation. I learned this during The-Year-of-Minnesota and it made a great impression on me at age 16. I learned that there are ministers and doctors and others who have been called to help and heal others. There are those who strive to make a difference. They strive to ease pain in their communities. They have a calling and are recognized and respected for their journey.
My uncle was noted by author William A. Nolen, M.D. in his 1970 novel The Making of a Surgeon. Uncle Greg Olson and Dr. Nolen were long-time colleagues in the small Minnesota town of Litchfield. Nolen's book, admittedly dated, is an excellent chronicle of small town medicine. He praises the dedication and commitment of my uncle and his sacrifices to make a difference.
I'm not sure if our oncologist will ever be chronicled for his really awesome skills. Lord knows, he knows his stuff and his bedside manner is wicked cool. He is truly the best of small town medicine and cutting edge expertise. Who knew these skills could co-exist?
My husband's oncologist will deliver to us some very important news in the morning. After several weeks of aggressive chemotherapy, we will learn if my husband's five inoperable tumors have responded. I spent today praying and crying and pleading to God and all ancient deities for a positive report. I prayed to all my dead aunts, uncles, and the many others who went before me, begging for mercy and grace.
Here's the thing. I know our oncologist will deliver the news, regardless of its severity, with grace and sensitivity. He will continue to guide my husband and I along this difficult journey. He will do this in an effort to ease pain. He is, first and foremost, a doctor, called to help others.