Thursday, September 25, 2008

from Alan Newman

I was Robert's oncologist for the last many years, until I retired in 2006. We had remained in contact since I retired--as friends. I was not aware of his recent downturn, and found out about his death only this AM when I saw it in the newspaper--so I really appreciate the chance to talk about our relationship. Robert was a kind, sensitive and gentle man, but had incredible courage in the face of his illness. He had to make many tough decisions--whether to have a transplant or not, whether to remove his spleen or not and more--and had consulted a whole spectrum of experts each with vastly different opinions about what he should do. Happily he had the facility of being able to make the right decisions for himself--and I was honored to support him in that. More importantly he never stopped reinventing his life in spite of the "rollercoaster ride" of his illness--growing in stature rather than diminishing in the face of chronic illness. People think that the life of an oncologist "must be so depressing". Though it always hurts deeply to lose a patient, that sadness is more than compensated for by the intensely human, emotionally satisfying relationships the oncologist has with his patients. The significance of Robert's life (and the life of most patients with cancer) is in what they can teach us about how to live, not about how to die. I learned much from Robert about how to live well despite adversity.

I wish I had known he was in the hospital--I wish I could have seen him one more time--I wish I could have told him how I felt about him once again--I wish I could have said goodbye--I do.
But I also know that these things were not necessary either for me or for Robert--he knew how I felt--and he will live always in my heart.

I hope his family will see these entries since I have no other way to contact them--my deepest sympathy goes out to his Mother and sister, and to all his friends as well.
Alan Newman

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