Agraphia Medical Tragicomedy

22Mar/06Off

Multiple Myeloma

One of the first days that we learned medical interview, we were sent into the hospital to interview real patients (most of our interviews were done on "Standardized Patients", who were simply people who learned how to be interviewed/examined and taught to give feedback. They weren't sick, but pretended to be, and we interviewed them in our classrooms).

The man that I interviewed in the hospital had multiple myeloma. At the time I didn't (and frankly, still don't) know exactly what it was, so I asked him to explain it to me. I remember him giving me a long explanation, most of which centered around how healthy he had been up until this point. Never a hospital visit. Never a broken bone. And now, this "growth", as he put it. He said that some doctors had hinted that it was cancer, but he didn't like to think of it that way. I was convinced, and remember assuring him that he "looked great".

It is cancer. Incredibly painful, lethal bone cancer. It's incurable, and from the onset of the disease to time of death, patients live an average of 3 years. He had end-stage disease, and he was only around 45.

I'm reading House Of God. If you haven't read it, you should. It's what my blog should be, but isn't. Anyhow, a man with multiple myeloma is described in brutal, grisly detail... "I thought of the bones in multiple myeloma: eaten away by the cancer until they're as brittle as Rice Krispies". I just realized that the first patient I ever interviewed is probably dead.

That's a sobering thought.

*edit* I finished House Of God. I'm not sure I'd say, after reading the whole thing, that it's what my blog should be. I don't think I'm anything like what he becomes near the end of the book. It starts out similar to Catch 22 - wickedly funny and unabashedly real - but then becomes something I can't identify with.

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