I am in Boston, on the twenty sixth floor of the Copley Marriott Hotel, waiting out the storm. I have not been to ASTRO, my professional society meeting in three years. I passed when the meeting was in San Diego two years ago, and Miami last year so that I could come to Boston, because I did my residency training here, started my career and my family here, and lived here for fifteen years. And besides, New England is so lovely in the fall. I chose my hotel carefully—not too far from the Convention Center, and very close to the restaurants and shopping in Back Bay. I had it all planned. All except for Hurricane Sandy. I arrived here with my office manager on Saturday night, and managed to get in a half day at the meeting yesterday. Today they “called it” at noon, and here I am back in my hotel room. Tonight’s parties have all been cancelled but there seems to be a lively crew at the hotel bar. I’m sure I will be joining them shortly.
We all say that we attend these meetings to learn what’s new in our field of radiation oncology, but the truth is that it’s very hard to learn anything when you run into an old teacher, or resident, or medical student between each lecture and it is ever so much more fun to sit and talk. I bumped into one of my very first residents yesterday afternoon. I mentioned that I had been writing down some of my old stories, and she piped in, “I have one for you—it’s about you! I’ve never forgotten it.” I said, “Oh, do tell me.” I was a first year attending, and being responsible for a resident was a frightening prospect, although I tried very hard not to show it.
She said, “It was during my very first few weeks of residency. I was called up to the ICU to consult on a 91 year old woman who was at the end of her life, on a ventilator. The situation was dire, but they called us to ask about treating a large skin cancer on her face with radiation. I knew that there was no way we could get her downstairs to treat her, but I didn’t know what to say on her chart. So I came and asked you!” I said, “What did I say?” She said, “You told me to go up there and write on her chart: SURELY YOU JEST!”
Apparently my sarcastic sense of humor hasn’t changed much in the twenty seven years since that day. It’s how we oncology folk get through it all