June 28, 2011

Aleksandar Hemon's Aquarium, and why pediatric oncologists do what they do

as a pediatric oncologist, i've grieved with many parents about the death of their children. with experience, my ability to help them-- through the practice of medicine to guide treatment, scientific research to find new therapies, and shared humanity when the right prescription is unknown-- is becoming better.

for parents, however, the loss of child remains a singularly terrible experience in life. becoming a parent has made me a better pediatrician, but my appreciation of the experience of grieving parents, as it is for most physicians, remains more of sympathy than empathy.

now, aleksandar hemon provides us with a most articulate and moving account of childhood cancer, published in a recent issue of the new yorker as "the aquarium: a child's isolating illness." it is currently behind a paywall, but if there is ever a story that is worth paying for and a story for which the new yorker should lift its paywall, this is the one. it is a must read for all physicians and parents.

i thank him for sharing his experience, which is as much a human story as it is a testament to why the desire to heal remains a powerful motivation for all physicians, pediatric oncologists among them.