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June 10, 1983

Angel of Death

JAMA. 1983;249(22):3094. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330460070040

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Many of the patients I cared for lived within a few miles of the hospital, as I had for my entire life. So it wasn't unusual to see a familiar face: a policeman, the minister's wife, or the father of an old flame. Once I cared for the owner of the only toy store in the area, an appropriately rotund, jolly man who was only temporarily upset by the diagnosis of metastatic disease.

Ambulatory and outwardly well, he needed no physical care. His pain and suffering were all internal—so far. I stayed close by during his hospitalization, explaining each test and medication, trying to prepare him for the side effects of some of the chemotherapeutic agents. I listened while he spoke of his family, his business, his anger, and his frustration. Having graduated from nursing school only a few months prior, I didn't know what else I could do for