A Sad Story

a man in the grass blowing a didgeridoo

There is an Australian instrument called a didgeridoo. It is about a 5 inch wide, very long tube made out of wood and usually some sort of wax or plastic, covering up the top for a mouthpiece. It is played by breathing in and out almost simultaneously.

An Australian patient of mine, who married an American woman and settled close to the clinic, developed skin cancer two years ago on his left ear. It was squamous cell carcinoma. He adamantly refused to have surgery and “did not want to look like Van Gogh!” We have the option of a very light form of radiation therapy in our clinic that can be done in eight treatments, about only two minutes each. It was originally new technology called high dose rate brachytherapy that is now able to be done with minimal shielding, in the office setting, without having to go to the hospital in a very thick walled, leaded room. We have treated thousands of times and fortunately have had no recurrences of any cancer to date.

Similarly, six months ago a gentleman came to the clinic with an ulcer in the upper left portion of the year and the very same area we performed the radiation therapy. The cartilage was exposed and it was painful. After two months of wound care and dressings, he finally decided it was time to perform a skin graft. We performed a porcine skin graft and he eventually healed after a few weeks.

Both the Australian patient and I have a passion for playing musical instruments and I told him that I sing as well. He said that he would come to the office and play the didgeridoo instrument for me. He did so and it was quite a scene. People outside were wondering what was going on in the exam room. So, I explained to them the nature of this very unique instrument and how I was getting a lovely free concert as part of our follow up!

My wife is the one who comes to work every day and opens up the mail and helps out around the office in any way possible. When she sees a handwritten letter from a patient or typed letter for the patient she immediately brings it to my attention. A letter came informing me that her husband suddenly died. Her husband was this Australian gentleman who plays this instrument for me. I was in shock. He was in relatively good health. I immediately called her up as soon as possible after the clinic day ended to express my condolences. In speaking with her, he did have a history of high cholesterol but he wasn’t feeling well that morning when she went out she came back to find him on the kitchen floor. She was broken and really affected by the sudden tragedy. I attempted to use my pastoral skills to allay her concerns.

We must be vigilant about our health.


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