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A Piece of My Mind
February 25, 2009

Dying to Talk

JAMA. 2009;301(8):807-808. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.207

In a selfish way, I am relieved that he has outlived other atrocities to prepare him for this final one. Mr V has survived war, then a brush with cancer that was supposed to have ended his life. Ten years ago, an aggressive stomach cancer required a gastrectomy and chemotherapy. He was given a bleak prognosis, but when he passed the three-year mark, things looked optimistic. At five years, he relaxed, and at ten years, he was pronounced a survivor.

A month later, he began experiencing abdominal pain and was found to have recurrent cancer. The disease had returned with a vengeance, dotted throughout his abdomen, causing his bowel loops to become matted in a dysfunctional mass. The bowel telescoped into the esophagus, making it extremely painful for him to swallow.