Do you ever think to yourself, Man, I hope there’s a boy in school right now who’s going to keep going for years and years, adding a specialty to his specialty so that he’s specifically trained for this one disease I’ve never even heard of that’s so rare the number of people who get it every year is under one thousand, because someday I’m going to get that disease, and I’ll need somebody who knows about it to see me through?
Yeah, neither did I.
And then I got that really rare disease, and the doctor who diagnosed it tried to refer me to a specialist in Omaha, Nebraska, who ended up being on medical leave, and that guy’s office referred us to this guy, Dr. Rosenthal, in Overland Park, Kansas, and suddenly I was so glad some guy was going to school for a really rare disease back when I didn’t even know that disease existed.
I was really scared to meet Dr. Rosenthal. I was so scared of my Cancer, so overwhelmed by it, that I was pretty sure the best a physician of it could do when he saw me was to shake his head. I’m so sorry this disease is going to kill you, the head shake would say, but if you’re lucky you’ll get to live for a while with one arm first. I know, it’s horribly morbid and pessimistic, ungrateful even – because, believe me, if losing my arm is what it would have taken to keep me alive…
So before Dr. R. entered the room on that first visit, I worked myself into a pessimistic frenzy. It was just about to burst out of me in a thunderstorm of terror, certain to overtake al the loved ones with me in the room, when he walked in. And I swear to you, he didn’t really even say a word before his calm spoke to my storm and said, be still. And I was.
After he spoke, both his calm and his confidence rubbed off. And for the first time since my diagnosis I felt a little bit of fight. Maybe I could beat this. And whether I could or not, this is the guy I wanted with me to the end.
Dr. Rosenthal is one of three Jewish people I know very well, and the other two are fictional. He knows pop culture (Dr. R. referenced the famous Serenity Now episode of Seinfeld when I first met him, he’s recommended movies on our visits there, and he can keep up with sports talk even though he really just goes to the games for the food.) He makes jokes, isn’t afraid to marvel at his own handiwork (“See? You don’t need a deltoid muscle”), and he saved my life five years ago today when he removed the tumor in my right shoulder thankfully hours, days, maybe weeks – we can’t know for sure – before it managed to spread to any other part of my body.
On Friday, Dr. R. saw me again, and he told me I’m officially, technically, and for all intents and purposes – including the taking out of a life insurance policy, which I should be able to do now without a hitch – CURED.
And I felt so grateful to God, so grateful for life, and so grateful for a boy who went to school.