Only when They Look Past Me

“How is the woman in room 312 doing?” “Good. I thought that might be the case.”  “No! No! No! I told them Friday morning.  She’s having surgery on Friday morning.”  The dialog was familiar from a not so distant past.  “How are her secretin levels holding? Good! Conference was great.  Yeah, I saw Mangela there.  He’s doing well.”

Despite the other chatter around me as I waited for my plane, I could only focus on my neighbor’s phone conversation.  A young man, most assuredly a GI doctor from what I was hearing.  He spoke not with arrogance, but distinct self-importance.

My mind wandered to a time when my husband was a practicing gastroenterologist and then I pictured the young doctor in front of me in a wheel chair, hunched over, skin weathered, no hair, and looking aged from chemotherapy.  Once again the all too familiar words crossed my mind.  Cancer is such a waste of time.

My mind continued to wander thinking about my husband’s treatments, side effects, surgeries, coma, isolation, his medical practice dissolution, and his patients.  I am reminded of a time sitting with him at a major university hospital.  As he sat in his wheel chair and we waited for him to be admitted to pre-op for his seventh surgery on his leg, I asked him how hard was it to watch these young doctors walking by engaged in medical speak and looking so important in their white lab coats.  He looked at me and stoically replied, “Only when they look past me.”  “Look past you?  What do you mean look past you?”  He went on, a bit choked, which caught my full attention.  He spoke hesitantly, “As I was wheeling into the elevator, while you were parking the car, three doctors got on with me – an attending and two younger doctors. I think a fellow and an intern.” He paused.  “It was obvious I was slowing them down and it irritated them.”  “How do you know?” “The attending pushed passed me to get on the elevator and when I said I’m sorry for being in the way, he didn’t even acknowledge I was there.”  “Did you say something to them?”  “No. But I wanted to tell them I am one of you.  I am a physician.  And but for the grace of God, you could be in this chair.  Don’t’ ever forget that.”

“Good, Friday morning.  I’ll check on her after surgery.”

Copyright © 2012 Jeannie Moloo. All Rights Reserved.


Jeannie Gazzaniga Moloo PhD, MS, RDN cared for her late physician husband through 12 years of blood cancer treatments, including a stem cell transplant, while raising their three young children. She is an award winning registered dietitian nutritionist and former owner of a clinical nutrition practice where she advised clients on healthy eating to manage heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and gastrointestinal conditions. She is a Ph.D. in epidemiology, with an emphasis in preventive medicine and environmental health. For nine years, she was a national media spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics providing sound, science-based nutrition advice to media, consumers, industry, and researchers. She has been quoted in several publications including the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, and Parents Magazine, and appeared on ABCNews, CBSNews, NBCNews, NPR, and KYGO-FM.

Reader Interactions


  1. Arianne says

    I watch him daily Jeannie from my window, when he parks his car and goes upstairs, I have many times thought he is the bravest person I have ever met.
    And when I catch his attention occasionally and wave, he smiles and even with his pain,still exudes such love.

    • Jeannie says

      Thank you Arianne for your comment. He is a warrior in the truest sense. And, he has so much to teach the world of physicians about what it’s like to be a patient, having spent much time now as both.

  2. Susan Polanco de Couet says

    Thank you again for sharing your world with us. The reality of life, for all of us, is truly, “There but for the grace of God go I” I hope that you and Nasir continue to be strong and share your story. We can all benefit from these lessons and practice a more compassionate way of living.

  3. Michele Taber says

    This is so touching as always Jeannie. It’s hard to seeing life going on around us as we deal with the major medical challenges that are changing our lives in so many major ways but so many smaller ways too. I love Nasir’s heart and tenacity. Your family is an inspiration to us all and I can only hope that we all can learn to face life’s challenges with the same grace that you all have.

  4. Anne Hunter Hamilton says

    Funny thing. I am a recent cancer survivor and after a year-long time of surgery and doctors, I am astounded by the energy, compassion and most importantly the brilliant ability of these people. If they are gabby, making jokes in the elevator, please remember, they are on the way to save your lives. My last micro surgery took two surgeons 7 hours. That’s intense!

    • Jeannie says

      Thank you Anne for your comment. Your points are well taken. On our ten year journey with cancer we have only praise for my husband’s physicians. He himself having been a very compassionate physician was loved by his patients for his compassionate ways and his brilliant ability to diagnosis and treat. He never would have pushed past a person in a wheelchair who was waiting to get on the same elevator and then ignored them when they apologized for getting in the way. No matter how busy he was practicing medicine, always showing compassion was important. Thank you very much for your comment.

  5. Amy says

    I am deeply touched yet again Jeannie. Michelle said it perfectly. Thanks so much for sharing your incredible family with the rest of us.

  6. stu stinson says

    Hi Jeannie, Just sent this to my DVM friend Doc Bower. I spoke to you previously about him. He has been a Non Hodgkins Lymphoma patient, as has your husband, for many years. Doc starts his 9th or 10th chemo tomorrow. He is bouncing off the walls with 100mg today. Stu

    • Jeannie says

      Thank you for your comment Stu. I appreciate your sharing the blog. It is a nasty disease with many ups and downs as you know. Please give my best to Doc Bower.

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