Physician, ‘heel’ thyself

I’ve experienced the best and worst of medical bedside manner. Four years ago, a Winnipeg physician told me in a straightforward yet reassuring conversation that I had cancer. Months later,  a Toronto doctor proclaimed there “was no real point” in treating my disease because it would just keep returning. (Hey Doc, I’m still here.)

And I wondered what might be the worst way to learn one has cancer……

DOCTOR: Hi  Mike. Let’s get right to it.  After all, you’re sitting here, and I know there’s only one thing you want to know. Is it cancer or is it not? That reminds me of a long story about a previous patient. See, the fellow —

MIKE: Doctor, please!


MIKE: The test results?

DOCTOR: Right! Now, when I deliver good or bad news, I add little personal touches to balance the impact. Like, if it’s good news, I walk in with a stern, pitying look, so they’re extra relieved when I tell them. But if it’s bad news, I enter smiling, wearing something cheery.

MIKE: You’re wearing a clown suit.

DOCTOR: Yes. Yes I am. So here’s the diagnosis, straight and to the point. Mike, do you ever worry you haven’t saved enough money for retirement?

MIKE: Not really.

DOCTOR: Worry no more. Because I can say, without doubt, you have enough money for the rest of your life.

MIKE: I have about 800 bucks.

DOCTOR: You have enough money for the rest of your life.

MIKE: I don’t follow you.

DOCTOR: True. In fact, I’ll probably follow you by a good thirty years.

MIKE: What kind of cancer is it?

DOCTOR: Oh it’s that new kind that everybody wants. Heh, just kidding.

MIKE: I mean, where is it?

DOCTOR:  Look at this MRI scan of your torso. Do you see these three tiny white spots?

MIKE: Yes.

DOCTOR: It’s not there.

MIKE: So it’s —

DOCTOR: Everywhere else.

MIKE: (Long pause) How much longer do I have?

DOCTOR: I hate to make predictions. Let’s just say, when you use a parking meter, buy the time in half-hour periods.


MIKE: What was that?

DOCTOR: I squeezed the clown nose. Feel better?

MIKE: I don’t think you’re a very good doctor.

DOCTOR: Ah, we call that ‘denial.’


8 thoughts on “Physician, ‘heel’ thyself

  1. Michael, the first time I saw you I was about ten, I was sitting in Aunty Dolly’s kitchen when your mom and dad came for a visit. You were such a cute baby.

  2. Haha, this is the first post I have read on this blog and it’s hilarious!

    I am from Inuvik myself, born and raised! when were you in town? I’m only 31, so it was def before my time. Take care, be strong.


  3. The doctor as a clown – the clown as a doctor. TOOOOO funny Mike, from a health professional. When referring to doctors, I’ve always said that not everyone finishes at the top of their class.

    As a cancer patient I must say – you are an inspiration Mike. Hope to catch you on the other side.

  4. Hello Mike! I’ve been involved in community theatre here in SK for many years and first saw you in a Shakespeare production with RLT 🙂 Your story is especially touching and interesting to me as it reflects the writings of a young friend of mine a couple of years ago. Scott was a multi-talented singer/dancer/composer and each time he posted an entry I laughed and cried in rapid succession, was sometimes horrified by his openness about the physicality of the situation, but always always in admiration of his strength, courage and incredible humour. He, as well, travelled when he could (not always with great success) and accomplished many things that others might have considered daunting, all the while dealing with what was happening with his body, mind and spirit. These musings of yours WILL help others as I hope they are helping you in your journey with that bitch named cancer (I’ll not dignify it with the privilege of capitalization)! Well done you!!!

  5. Oh how I wish I had known of this blog before the death of its’ author… I would tell him what a beautiful, humorous soul he has. Mike, may your beloved family feel your love and have only good days ahead. May you rest peacefully knowing you made the best of a horribly dealt hand… How I wish things had turned out differently for you, the world has lost a wonderful human…

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