Wednesday, May 11, 2011

There has been no blog in the past several days because there has been very little humor. Our family has been mourning the death of our nephew who died in the prime of life from leukemia and lymphoma. He had received chemotherapy for the past 3 years with little effect. He suffered all the side effects of the drugs including; hair loss, nausea, vomiting, infections and everything in between. He was much too young to die at age 53.

In the middle of all this sadness the only humorous experience was a visit with a physician who had come to my former institution of medical practice as a consultant and as a guest speaker. This fellow is the author of the book “ Mark Twain and Medicine.” He is an authority on my hero, Mark Twain and it was my privilege to go to dinner with him and also hear his speech. He was terrific, and it was almost as good as it might have been to have dinner with Mark Twain himself. I had a most delightful and entertaining time talking to this scholarly gentleman who knew just about everything about Twain. Between the two of us we possessed all knowledge about Mark Twain; he knew everything there was to be known and I knew everything else.

This fellow’s book was as much about the history of medicine in Twain’s time as it was about Mark Twain himself. It contained most of the humor of Twain that poked fun at medicine and doctors. Most of the treatments in Twain’s time were ridiculous and totally ineffective. The germ theory of disease had just been recognized toward the end of Twain’s life. Modern surgery, antibiotics and all the marvels of modern medicine didn’t exist in Twain’s time. It was a time for charlatans and all sorts of worthless medicines and cures. Mark Twain had a great time poking fun at these absurd practices. Twain also had some of his own recommended cures, like the advice he gave a lady about her illness. He told her she needed to give up smoking, drinking and swearing and she would get well. She claimed she didn’t do any of these things. He replied that she was a hopeless case, and she was like a sinking ship with nothing to throw overboard. She was doomed because she had neglected her habits.

Anyway, I had a great time with this Mark Twain scholar. He brought the only shred of humor at a very sad time. We reflected on what people will be saying and laughing about 100 years from now about our practices. Chemotherapy will probably be one of them. Folks will be saying; can you imagine they used to give people poisons that would make their hair fall out and throw up everything they ate. Hopefully, in a 100 years from now doctors will have a better and more humane cure for cancer and folks like my nephew will be able to live a full life and laugh at Mark Twain stories until a ripe all age.


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