Other Posts (1 of 2)…

Today I wanted to share my thoughts on previous posts. Let me first say that I know it’s very hard to write; it’s an art form in which the ultimate goal is to portray your message clearly to the reader. I’ve come to appreciate this in writing for the blog, which makes me more grateful to have had people contribute their thoughts. In one of my recent posts I discussed my process of generating a piece for the blog. When I release posts written by others I try my best not to alter (with the exception of an occasional grammatical mistake) their writing in order to preserve their voice.[1]

Let me say that this is not to serve as an ode to everyone who contributed to the blog; my gratitude to them for writing on my behalf goes without saying. My aim here is to provide my perspective on their perspective.

———- My Family ————

The first posts I must mention are those from my family: my wife, parents, sisters, and the interview with my son Christian. These were people that knew me before and after the diagnosis, those I called out for in the ICU, and those who are with me by my side every day.

I have to say that even though I remember much of the post-op/recovery period, after reading their pieces I realized there was much I either didn’t recall or remembered incorrectly.[2] It was no coincidence that my first guest post was from my wife—I know that without someone as strong and loving as her with me I could not have made it through this. One of my main worries during this ordeal was its effect on her, as often times the needs of the person closest to those who endure a traumatic experience can be overlooked. In fact, in the email I sent out to the residency telling them of my diagnosis, I made sure to ask that everyone look out for Fleur, as I knew this would be toughest on her. Her piece, besides being fantastically written, also shed much light on her view of the immediate aftermath of my surgery. We often discuss how my recovery is going currently. Many of my post ideas actually come from these conversations.

Hearing how my parents viewed my recovery was also very interesting. I imagine seeing their only son go through an ordeal like this was unspeakably tough. My biggest takeaways from their articles (and virtues I already knew of) was my mom’s optimism and my dad’s rationality. Until reading his piece, I had no idea of the extent of his doubts regarding my return to residency.

My dad- apparently hungry
My dad- apparently hungry

My love for my sisters has only been magnified through this experience and reading their articles brought tears to my eyes. Initially these were tears of sorrow, as while reading through their pieces a flood of childhood memories came rushing to my head and I knew with my condition that things would never be the same between us again; these tears of sorrow then turned to tears of happiness as I could feel the hope and love beaming through each of their articles.

Cormac and Alice
Cormac and Alice

I recently read an article in the American Academy of Family Physicians that dealt with the topic of children of those with chronic, debilitating conditions—it stated that these children were at risk of developing psychiatric conditions such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Depression, and Conduct Disorder (to name a few) stemming from having to deal with their parent’s disorder. It went on to state that open dialogue to make sure they know it is not their fault could help to curb development of these conditions. Thus when I interviewed him for the blog, I wanted to make sure he knew that this was in no way his fault.[3] Thankfully, he has taken my condition in stride and barely acknowledges it today.

—– Friends ——

I have decided to categorize the guest articles into ‘Family’, ‘Friends’, ‘Clinicians’, and ‘Co-Residents’. This merely provides a way to organize the posts and my thoughts. The reality is that I consider the clinicians and co-residents my friends as well but the fit was better in their respective sub-categories.

One of my closest friends is someone I met in college—Cliff Nguyen. I recently released his post. His piece also evoked a sense of hope in me (I smell a theme brewing here?). Reading his thoughts especially when we picked him up from the train station was a point of view that I had not thought of. In his piece he managed to transition from apprehension and anxiety to hope and optimism. Words cannot express how grateful I am to call him a friend.

—- Clinicians —–

It has been over a year and a half since that day in March when an MRI revealed my brain mass. I am still in awe that Dr. Kaufman was able to recall as much as he did. This is a person who sees over 40 patients every day. To remember my case with such detail is truly incredible.[4]

I mentioned in his post, that I did not particularly like him before that day in March. But now we have become close friends, often trading emails and collaborating on projects to publish. I’ve come to realize that while he is a tall and intimidating figure, he has a huge heart; the term ‘gentle giant’ comes to mind.

His piece also brought me to tears (I promise I don’t cry that much) as his beautiful words brought on many emotions. The thought of someone of his stature, someone I had been so wrong about, producing such moving and kind words was amazing.

Dr. David Kaufman
Dr. David Kaufman

I also had my reservations about Dr. Andary before getting to know him. Before becoming a patient of his, I only knew about him by word of mouth in the hospital. He was known not only for being a fantastic clinician–one of the best in his field–but also for his bluntness and inability to deal with incompetence.[5] I have had several office visits with him since my discharge and have come to admire his many traits.[6] I would not say that I’ve learned anything new about him, except for his willingness to fight for his patients; however, I now view his traits through a different window: his bluntness and inability to handle incompetence actually serve as a veil for his compassion for his patients. His piece may have seemed straight-forward on the surface, but on subsequent reads, it also was an article filled with compassion and hope.

Dr. Michael Andary
Dr. Michael Andary

Besides caring for my family and this blog, therapy has been one of the few constants in my life. When I was in the hospital my days revolved around my therapy schedule. Therapy is a budding field that keeps everyone involved very busy. That is why I was so touched that Valerie and Cheris agreed to write an article on my behalf for the blog. But when I read through their posts I was in awe of their writing ability. These are people who for a living write: ‘ROM: 3/5’(ROM = range of movement) or ‘poor ADLs’ (ADL = activities of daily living) in patient notes. I am not trying to decry these notations as insignificant, I am just saying that the type of writing involved in their daily work is more practical, and less literary. Yet they somehow both produced incredibly touching pieces about their work with me. The juxtaposition of their articles provided an interesting dynamic in that one (Valerie) works primarily in the in-patient setting while the other (Cheris) in the out-patient environment. Reading each of their views on my recovery was not only interesting in that regard, but also fascinating in themselves.

Cheris Grasse
Cheris Grasse


[1] In fact, after I send a draft to Amy, she often sends back her edits with a note “I didn’t touch XXXX’s part.”

[2] If it comes down to either believing me (groggy on pain medications, and still hazy from the brain surgery) post-op or believing someone else who was not the recipient of brain surgery, I’d go with the latter.

[3] To this day, even with Fleur and I’s correcting, he is still adamant in his belief that my tumor was due to “eating too many potato chips.”

[4] It’d be like asking you what you had for lunch on January 3rd of this year. I can barely even remember what I had for lunch this past Wednesday.

[5] Although relative to him, everyone’s incompetent.

[6] When you’re fighting for things like the right to work, you want bluntness and intelligence on your side.

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