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I do not think we can ever know how much we will affect all the people we meet in our lifetime.
Perhaps, for those people closest to us, we can momentarily see how our words and deeds effects them when they are right in front of us. But when we part or move on, we have no idea what lasting effects this contact will have. I often wonder how I have affected the people I have met in my lifetime so far. I know that many people have impacted my life and that some of those people will never know how much they affected me.
Let me share one such story:
When I was a undergraduate student at UCLA I worked as a clerk in the medical center for a orthopaedic oncologist. He saw patients with bone and muscle tumors. One of his patients was a teenaged boy diagnosed with a particularly bad type of bone tumor.
While I never met this patient, I did have contact with his mother over the phone. I set up the initial consultation appointment. After his referral to an oncologist, I heard back from his mother than her son was refusing treatment. Devastated, his mother sought my help and I arrange a second opinion with another recommended doctor closer to his home in Orange County and made sure all his medical records were copied and sent to this doctor.
Even after this second consultation, the teenager continued to refuse treatment. Instead, his family took him to a clinic in Mexico. Occasionally, the doctor I worked for received medical updates and I would read them as I filed them into his chart. With each report, his cancer spread and worsened. The last report was from the Emergency Room. He arrived in very poor condition and, having finally changed his mind, he was asking for treatment. He was admitted but did not live long enough to receive it.
My heart went out to this boy and his family.
About 9 months later, I was diagnosed with cancer: acute promyelocytic leukemia. I remembered this boy and his story. On the day I was given the results of my bone marrow biopsy, I asked to be taken to UCLA so I could begin my cancer treatment.
I did not know if I would live or die, but I knew that if I didn't follow whatever treatment course my doctors recommended, I would not survive.
Twenty-three years later, I am still asking myself, 'Was this boy meant to be in my life? Was his cancer experience a cautionary tale to prime me for my own cancer experience? Would things have been different if he had not touched my life?'
I do not think we can ever know how much we will affect all the people we meet in our lifetime. Sometimes we need to be reminded of this, especially when we are feeling down, useless or a burden on other people. I believe that we are meant to be here, in this moment, even if our purpose for being here is not clear to us or our effect on others around us never truly revealed.