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A Piece of My Mind
September 14, 2011

Piano Lessons

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego, California (

JAMA. 2011;306(10):1063-1064. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1225

My eyes went to the mass on the chest film: big, dense, and ugly, surely a lung cancer. I looked at my former piano teacher, my friend, sallow, emaciated, and withered. I felt as if a lump of lead had dropped into the pit of my stomach.

Earl (not his real name) said, “My family doctor wanted me to see a lung specialist, and I told him I wanted you.”

I faked a smile. “I appreciate the compliment. It's been what, eight years?”

He shifted in his chair. “Sorry. It hurts if I sit still very long. You still playing the piano?”

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