Updated: Dec 12, 2020
I was called at 3 a.m. to respond to an 11-year-old oncology patient with spiking high fevers. I was the second-year resident physician on hospital night call for the pediatric team at the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I hurried into the patient's room to find his mom, his grandmother and his older brother all awake by the sick boy's bedside. His dad was sitting on the bed soothing his son's forehead.
I explained that the boy's white blood cell count was too low and several important tests needed to done immediately. Understandably, the thin, pale boy wondered aloud why this all had to be done right now, he just wanted to go home. The snow fell quietly outside the large double-paned windows near the boy's bed while I explained that he was still very sick and we wanted to safely treat his cancer before we could send him home.
His father's face turned red with rage. He instructed me to walk with him outside the room. With utmost self-control, the broken-hearted father who served as the church pastor in a farm town several hundred miles away told me that I was an idiot for telling his son that he had cancer. The family had decided that