Two Hundred and Nine Short Essays Later


Here I am in Boston, on the eve of my very first writer’s conference, feeling a bit like an imposter.  After all, the extent of my writing so far has been this blog, apart from thousands of histories, physical exams and treatment plans over the last thirty-nine years since starting medical school.  It occurred to me that someone might actually want to know what it is that I write about.  And then it occurred to me that I had never actually thought about it.  So I did, and this is what I came up with.



Cancer                                                                                                                           Radiation Therapy                                                                                                                 Dogs                                                                                                                                   Cats                                                                                                                                     Horses                                                                                                                                   Being a mother                                                                                                                         My kids                                                                                                                                 Travel                                                                                                                                    My father                                                                                                                               My mother                                                                                                                             Being a doctor                                                                                                                         Life


Cancer patients inspire me and motivate me                                                                       I’d like to explain a few things about cancer                                                                         I’d like to explain a few things about radiation therapy                                                     Cancer is evil and is not selective and makes me sad                                                 Cancer patients can be funny and they also make me laugh                                   Sometimes people do really stupid things when it comes to cancer treatment         Sometimes simple people can be heroes                                                                         Dogs are good therapy for me, my cancer patients, and my kids                                     Ditto on cats                                                                                                                       Horses are beautiful, liberating, dangerous and always expensive                                     You can be a mother AND a doctor and it’s going to be very hard                                     Your kids will forgive your shortcomings                                                                            Your kids will make fun of you                                                                                           Your kids will be successful if you EXPECT them to be and don’t harass them              Travel is enlightening and sometimes difficult and sometimes funny                                    My surgeon father is both an inspiration and a source of extreme annoyance                       My mother had a hard life and a hard death, despite appearances                               There’s always someone worse off than you                                                                   There’s always something to hope for



Examine your patients—it’s important                                                                               Think for yourself and follow your gut instinct                                                                Beware of templates.  They tempt us to cheat                                                                     The Rules of the House of God still apply                                                                      Doctors make mistakes.                                                                                                       Be very selective about who you hire and set a good example for them                             Be the captain of the ship                                                                                                     Try not to whine, even if you fail                                                                             Communicate with your referring doctors and with your patients                                     Take the time and make the time                                                                                         Learn to speak slowly and clearly in layman’s terms                                                           Try not to say no, and never say “never”                                                                             DO NOT DROP THE BALL when dealing with cancer patients                                           And finally, answer your goddamned phone calls

Did I leave anything out?


  1. Such wise words — at 3 am even! There is, however, no mention of Milky Ways and Jack Daniels so I can only assume this was written from across the pantry of mi hermana. Much love, Moo!

  2. Funny I was curious after reading your last blog if you are going to be writing a book and here you are at a writer’s conference. I am obviously not a writer but you inspire me in many ways!

  3. You write with great economy and wit! I love the part about cats, dogs, and horses. One of my elder-care clients has an Irish wolfhound, so when I wash the dishes at her house, a big, friendly dog comes up and bumps me with her nose in the middle of my back, just to say hi.

  4. YES! Powerful insights for living…and, especially, wisdom for doctors/health providers who can learn priceless jewels of patient care from one who actually excelled at patient-centered service..

  5. “Be the captain of the ship .”

    So true. I walk into each new vet clinic where I am filling in and I am acutely aware that I am the one who sets the tone.

    The example I set in how I treat clients and patients will influence my staff. And I deal with everything as calmly as I can, because if I lose control then they are rudderless. My calm demeanor allows us all to deal with whatever situation is at hand.

    This is especially true when I am doing surgery!!

  6. And speaking of books, I am reading “Ham: Slices of a Life: Essays and Stories” by Sam Harris. That’s what I see your future book to be: slices of your life. But much more interesting than stories about the life of a performer. Your life deals with REAL life.

  7. THANK YOU!!! I loved this post, as I do all of your vignettes. I found your blog thru Kevin, MD, saved it to Feedly and I am always tickled when I see Crab Diaries in the day’s feed. I hope you don’t retire from writing anytime soon. Rock on, Doc!

  8. You are a very gifted writer. You can make me laugh and cry, sometimes in the same blog. These are individual chapters in your “slice of life” . Or maybe your “Dose of Life” or “Waves” or whatever is a good term for that blast of radiation in the treatments. So glad you are going to a writers conference. There is one just for womyn in May and Oct Called Women Writes in AL or GA. I can get you more details if you are interested.
    Please keep writing. I love reading it.

  9. Thank you to everyone who wrote in to encourage me. I almost pulled this last post because it looked so stupid, but it did help me gather my thoughts for the conference. More on that when I get home. M

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