A couple of months before Elaine died from peritoneal cancer, we hired Anila, a cheerful, hearty Albanian house cleaner. On her first visit, Anila saw that Elaine was bedridden. “Kerosene can save her,” she said. “There is science. Look it up on the Internet.” Later, Elaine and I had a good laugh over it. She said, “Maybe that’s all they have available in Albania.” But in retrospect I’ve thought, “Could it be any worse than the treatment she got here?”
Elaine was a bright light to those who knew her, one of those rare people whose inherent grace put others at ease and made them feel special. A trained pianist, she was also a gifted and productive artist who in her last year painted and gave away more than a dozen original pieces to friends and family. Continue reading “The Gold Standard for Current Cancer Treatment”→
Posted 4/07/13 on Medscape Connect’s Care & Cost Blog
Last week I visited with Gary Rost, an unassumingly knowledgeable man and the Executive Director of the Savannah Business Group (SBG), arguably one of the most effective health care coalitions in the country. Their offices are only a couple hours away from my home on the Northeast Florida coast, so it was a quick trip up.
SBG was founded in 1982 as a way of mobilizing employer buying power for better care at lower cost. Its reach now extends beyond Savannah about an hour south, north into South Carolina and west from the coast. The vision described on its site is straightforward and easy for purchasers to appreciate:
“SBG endorses and adheres to the principles of value-based purchasing: performance measurement, transparency, public reporting, pay for performance, informed consumer choice and collective employer leadership.”
Most of us have spent some time thinking about our own deaths. We do it with a sense of dreadful curiosity, but then we push it aside with “well, we’ve all got to go sometime.”
Unlike most people, I probably know the how, the why, and maybe even the when of that event. It is profound information that turns the world upside down for us, our families, friends and caregivers.
I have cancer that is incurable, aggressive, and has negligible survival odds. My chemotherapy is a long shot. I will leave a spouse, children, siblings and a life that I love and cherish. I cannot imagine existence without them.
Brian’s Note: With yesterday’s announcement that Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies had won the Pulitzer for General Non-Fiction, I thought it might be appropriate to rerun this review from last December 5, 2010.
The opening page of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies begins with a quote by Susan Sontag that is so on-point, yet so rare and fresh, that one can’t help being excited by the prospect of what’s to come.
Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick.
Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.
You open the book with great expectations. It is weighty, yes – 570 pages, 100 of which are end notes – but beginning, you immediately find its expansive scholarship wrapped in a writing style so fluid and lyrically engaging that it instantly dispels any hesitancy, and you are captured.
Originally published on 2/10/10 on Hyperbole and a Half
I took Boyfriend to the Emergency Room last night because he was vomiting up vast quantities of what I thought was blood but actually it was just Craisins. You guys, if you feel like you may become violently ill in the near future, stay away from red food. Failure to do so may create an atmosphere of unnecessary panic and chaos.
Anyway, the doctor wanted to make sure that Boyfriend didn’t have SARS or stomach AIDS or something, so he had to poke him a lot. While he was doing this to Boyfriend, he pointed to a little reference chart on the wall and asked Boyfriend to rate his pain:
A couple of years ago one of my longtime friends, Scott Kelly, told me about a philanthropic effort, Water for People, that is among the most pragmatic and useful I’ve heard of. Scott is a water engineer, and he travels with this organization to villages in under-developed countries. With a team, he helps bring clean water to the village – for example, a well, an aquaduct – and then, equally importantly, they develop a support infrastructure to maintain the water source over time.
Scott told me a profound statistic: half the hospital beds in the world are filled with people who drank bad water. Living in the land of milk and honey as we do (and so often take for granted), we forget that a billion people still live in such dire poverty that the struggle to survive is all consuming. Many, many more are on the lower rungs of the ladder, barely holding on.
Bad water saps the vitality from individuals and societies, and keeps them enslaved.
In the spirit of this season, think of the people who are furthest from the bounty that our own good fortune has bestowed on us. Make a contribution that can help them and their children get started on the road to better lives. Water for People is an organization dedicated to making that happen.