The Light Within -- The Extraordinary Friendship of a Doctor and Patient Brought Together by Cancer by Lois M. Ramondetta, M.D. and Deborah Rose Sills, Morrow '08, $24.95, 250 pages, ISBN #0061359416. Appendix, grouping of full-color images.
Young gynecologic oncology fellow meets professor patient 13 years her senior, learns valuable life lessons and forms a lifelong friendship. That's essentially the summary of Dr. Lois M. Ramondetta's memoir. And no, there's no miraculous recovery and restoration to health.
Deborah Rose Sills does not go gently into that good night -- not by a long shot. For years, she fights against the inevitable, rejoicing at remissions, philosophizing at setbacks. And what makes Dr. Sills remarkable is her determination to live, not in the past or future, but in the moment. Over the years, the families of the two women mingle, they travel to far-off lands, and yes, Dr. Ramondetta is there as her patient's candle burns its final flame in 2006.
Of interest in this highly personal recollection is how the young doctor finds feelings warring within her at the outset by letting herself develop an emotional bond with her patient. Whether that is better than doctors who divorce themselves from any bond of feeling with dying patients is a conundrum the reader can best answer for herself.
Doctors are, after all, trained to be fixers. To admit to a patient that he's out of options is to admit defeat. And so, too often, attending physicians have a way of disappearing, emotionally and/or physically, once a terminal prognosis is made. Dr. Ramondetta, informed in part by Dr. Sills, demonstrates the strength, grace and wisdom of sitting by a patient's bedside and holding her hand silently for an hour, once all hope is lost.