A 4 year old boy had a retina blastoma on the back of his left eye. The left eye was surgically removed and was replaced with a prosthetic eye. To eliminate all the cancer residues, the boy went through radiotherapy. About three years later, when the boy was 7, he was again diagnosed to retina blastoma on his right eye and had to undergo the same procedures.
I met this young patient in clinics in the beginning of my third week, and now he is 14 years old. He came to clinics with several complaints for his headaches and hearing problems. I first did not notice that he was blind but after the brief physical exams Dr. Souweidane performed I realized that he could not see what was in front of him. When I heard the whole story about him, I truly felt sorry for him and his family. He was diagnosed to acoustic neuroma—it was his third cancer occurrence. Dr. Souweidane explained that he had about 50% chance of losing his hearing after the surgery if he opts to remove the tumor mass by surgical methods. As a matter of fact, the tumor mass was already quite large in size and because radiotherapy has seemed to cause more trouble than helping cancer clean up for the patient, Dr. Souweidane decided not to give him any more radiotherapy. The boy was rather calm as Dr. Souweidane explained all the possible etiology, surgical plans, its associated risks, and expected improvements as well as loss after the surgery, but I could certainly see the devastated looks of his parents through their eyes.
The privilege of seeing patients in clinics has given me mixed feelings. Sometimes my adviser Dr. Souweidane would look like a hero, giving relief to patients and even, as a result, saving their lives. Some patients would come to see him with problems which fortunately can be relatively easily treated and would not have much postoperative complication such as chiari malformation. But some other patients have to face diagnosis such as malignant brain tumors with some cases unfortunately occurring at regions of brain that require traumatic craniotomy. Not only that I feel disappointed at current medicine, but also feel responsibility to contribute whichever way I can through things I study. Also, before I tell my friends how cool my experience has been at Cornell hospital seeing patients with all kinds of diseases in clinics and witnessing topnotch surgeries, I should always keep in mind that there are always close friends and family who would weep for these patients.