Saturday, October 7, 2006

Out with the Drains! Again!

The drains came out today. This is the 4th time I’ve had these plastic tubes coming out of my chest carrying blood and fluid from the chest and into plastic barrel-shaped containers. It’s pretty amazing, really, that you can stick a tube of plastic inside a person’s body to drain blood out and then you just yank on the tube and about 20 centimeters of plastic tubing comes sliding out of the body, leaving a hole in the chest that you just plug with a bandage.

It’s also pretty amazing that you can lop off a body part and the body can go on. Just think of all those muscles and nerve endings and blood veins that get chopped up in the process. And somehow they manage to reconnect and heal. Seems the human body is capable of withstanding quite a lot. Add to that all the medical technology now available, and there’s real reason to hope that one day there will be a cure for cancer. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of help from science and medicine to prolong life with cancer and make the fight less painful. So hooray for scientists, researchers, and doctors who are looking for a cure and fighting the disease day-to-day.

If I could start my life over again, I think I’d go into oncology. I’d probably cry all the time for my patients and be very poor giving all my money away to patients who can’t pay for treatment, but I’d feel like I was doing something useful with my life.

I wonder if I haven’t given enough thought to what I’ve been doing with my life. What if I’d been told at the beginning of my adult life, say, age 20 or so, “You are hereby given an entire planet and 50 years to do whatever you want with it. Go forth and use those 50 years the best you can!” It’s like one of those reality TV shows where contestants are given a set amount of time to accomplish a task. Would I map out a plan? Would I set goals and work toward them? Do other people do this? Do they sit down and decide, “I’ll finish law school by 23, get married by 30, have kids by 35, retire by 55, see the Eight Wonders of the World by age 60, etc.”

If we were given one year to accomplish a task, we’d certainly map out a plan to best succeed at accomplishing the task. But if given 50 years? And what sort of task would we set for our lives? Enjoy life and leave a beautiful corpse? Touch people around you and leave your memory in their hearts? Or something less esoteric like set up a foundation to educate the poor. Amass the biggest collection of rare Indian coins in the world? Are people planning ahead or just bumbling along? Should I be planning something big?

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