After 17 years as a doctor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, I was diagnosed with cancer and treated at my hospital. My memoir, organized as a collection of emails, captures the surreal experience of being both a cancer doctor and a cancer patient, a scenario that resembles being in a play in which you know all the lines but you’re reading the wrong part. The book is called I Signed as the Doctor because when I filled out consent forms for the procedures needed to diagnose my cancer, I initially signed as the doctor, because that’s where I always sign!
In I Signed as the Doctor, I analyze my cancer journey as it unfolds. In the context of the story, I address such issues as chemotherapy, hair loss, family, fear of death, and our hospital rule that you must remove your underpants before having brain surgery. I interweave the story with reminiscences of my childhood, marriage, and kids; meditations on music and writing; and incidents illustrating the joy of life in Manhattan.
Based on my experience, I recommend specific coping strategies for people facing cancer, for their loved ones, and for their caregivers. I also advise physicians on how they can be better doctors, using my unique perspective as a cancer doctor surviving cancer. I highlight my suggestions in each chapter and break them out into lists at the end of the text; these lists are included on this website. Because coping with cancer or other life challenges (personally or in a loved one) is a universal experience, I share my story for the benefit of all.