My brother recommended that I read a book he had just read. “The Noticer: Sometimes, “All a Person Needs is a Little Perspective” by Andy Andrew. I don’t read; I listen. The book is read by the author; and he is an excellent reader, making this book even more enjoyable and educational.
One of the stories he tells is about a young man who is down on his luck. The main character, whose name is Jones, and another young man had lunch together on the beach. The lunch consisted of Vienna sausage and sardines; and the young man, who lived under the pier, did not like the combo.
The punchline is that, while the young man had a lousy lunch on the sand near the pier where he lived, Jones had surf and turf by the ocean. Simply put, the experience they shared differed based on their individual perspectives. My brother should have been a psychologist. He picked up on the change in my mood and, rather than lecturing me, gave me a delightful book to help reorient me.
Whatever life I have left can either be miserable, focusing on my losses and handicaps, or marvelous, focusing on my blessings and remaining abilities. It’s funny how, despite the years of counseling patients and teaching them about how important perspective is, I could ignore what Dr. Segal knows and get lost in what Stewart thinks.
In medical school, we learned that we should never treat ourselves or family and friends, as we supposedly lose our objectivity when dealing with loved ones and those close to us. I always thought that edict was BS. I’m discovering the truth. While Dr Segal could look from the outside at a patient’s situation, when dealing with Stewart (myself) and perhaps family, the view is from the inside out and, many times, warped by my perspective.
Let me share a true story with you. My very first patient with cancer had a particularly nasty type of cancer and her cancer was in a late stage when she was diagnosed. As most patients with cancer do, she asked me how long she was likely to live. Not only did I refuse to make a prediction, I begged her not to ask any other docs that question and to stay away from the library (pre-computer source of knowledge). She followed my instructions. Regrettably, her family did not. They discovered that she had, on average, 3 months to live.
SHE LIVED 8 YEARS! She had multiple tumors grow and regress. Her perspective was that she would live until she died and was going to enjoy everyday as much as possible. She confided in me that what bothered her the most was the look on her family’s faces. They went to the library and walked away with the perspective that their mom was going to die in the near future. The fear on their faces was harder to deal with then the cancer itself.
My overall take away message is that, when transitioning from doctor to patient, maintaining and following the “doctor’s wisdom” is difficult but necessary. I’m losing weight because I’ve gone back to the basics I’ve taught others for years. I’m working on my Blessings List because counting your blessings is better than taking antidepressants. I’m going to Rock Steady because that’s what I told my Parkinson’s patients to do. I’m reviewing Mr. Wonderful’s book of positive sayings that I’ve shared with so many patients over the years.
Here’s today’s joke:
One night, the 96-year-old draws a bath, puts his foot in and pauses. He yells down the stairs, “Was I getting in or out of the bath?”
The 94-year-old yells back, “I don’t know, I’ll come up and see.” He starts up the stairs and pauses, then he yells, “Was I going up the stairs or coming down?”
The 92-year-old was sitting at the kitchen table having coffee listening to his brothers. He shakes his head and says, “I sure hope I never get that forgetful.” He knocks on wood for good luck. He then yells, “I’ll come up and help both of you as soon as I see who’s at the door.”