The author and oncologist on his red suede writing couch, his admiration for Orwell and his love of cell biologyBy the time I sit down to write in my office, I’ve typically gone through several internal cycles of remission and relapse. I’ve probably finished my rounds in the cancer ward. Perhaps I’ve taught the red-eyed, exhausted overnight intern to recognise the difference between the drug rash from Amoxicillin (bright, angry, often harmless) and the innocuous-looking rash of immune rejection after a transplant (dusky, hazy, often deadly). Perhaps it’s eight in the morning now. I’ve had two shots of espresso. I might have written orders for chemo for a young woman with breast cancer, and – since her babysitter had to cancel this morning – I may have asked one of the nurses to distract a three-year-old daughter while another nurse puts an IV line into Mom’s arm. Then I may have scooted down to the pathology lab to look at the bone marrow biopsies that I did last week. There’s one man whose marrow shows a spectacular response to the drug that is on trial. Another patient has definitely relapsed. It’s barely midday, and my pulse has stopped, started and stopped about four times. Why do I write? Or why, for that matter, do some doctors write? Some of us write to bear witness. Some of us tell stories.
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