Angry Letter

It’s pretty safe to say that I’ve entered “Angry Stage.” I’m angry at everyone and everything, I have every right to be angry, and I feel sorry for anyone who is going to feel the wrath of that anger in the very near future. One target of this dangerous emotion is the hospital. Their ditzy representatives have been calling non-stop to get us to participate in their “bereavement counseling program.” I know that sounds real swell and all, but we are not in the least bit interested in their “services.” We’re sad and it’s their fault. As an outlet for my anger, I have composed a nice little letter to the place where my father died. Whether or not I will ever send it, or ever speak the sentiments expressed in it next time they make the mistake of calling, is yet to be determined.

Dear Hospital,

You are a disgrace to the medical community, to cancer treatment, and to humanity in general. The quality of your care in the case of James McNaboe was appalling. Oh, you disagree? Then go chat with doctors and oncologists at other hospitals and tell them how you went about treating this particular case of cancer. How for weeks you just sat around scratching your heads going “Well I dunno,” analyzing one single biopsy when you could have been starting radiation or chemo or gee, I don’t know, advising him to seek the opinions of medical professionals WHO ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING! The looks of horror on other doctors’ faces should be sufficient evidence that you did not do your job. You did not save a life.

(Side note: This actually happened. My mom’s oncologist was disgusted by what he heard when she and my dad went in for her checkup.)

I am fully aware that despite years of progress and millions of dollars of research, cancer is still a mystery. It attacks unexpectedly and often cannot be treated. I am also aware that my father’s cancer was a rare case that grew and spread frighteningly fast, and that perhaps watching him suffer for much longer than four months would have been worse. However, I truly cannot imagine feeling worse than I do right now. My father was taken from me. He was taken from me before he had the chance to be a grandfather again, dance with me at my wedding to “Come Go With Me” by The Del Vikings, help me figure out how to buy an apartment. And whose fault is that? Is it his primary care physician’s fault, who told him to take an Aleve for his back pain? Is it his oncologist’s fault, who constantly reassured us that he was improving? Is it the radiologist’s fault, who apparently missed a spot the first time around? It’s all of their faults, and it’s no one’s fault. The only people I can honestly say are not at fault here are your nurses.

The nurses on the oncology floor, and one on the radiation floor, took a sincere and personal interest in my family. When I had a medical question, they listened. When I was alone in his room, crying as I watched him struggle through sleep, they let us be. These nurses deserve medals for putting up with my father–a stubborn man with and without cancer–at his absolute worst, and for regarding his confused and heartbroken daughter and wife with more than condescension and faux concern. The nurses who treated my dad when he first arrived at the hospital were shocked to learn how quickly and significantly he had deterioriated, and most of them shed real tears when they found out your care had failed. To these women I am eternally grateful.

I’m just so glad my dad’s oncologist got to spend a nice Memorial Day Weekend at the beach with his wife and kids after informing us that my dad would probably not make it through the weekend, and I’m so glad that in his place was a pompous asshole in desperate need of bedside manner training. Of course HIS voice had to be the one to inform my mother that her husband was dead, not the voice of the man who had been treating him for months. I just want all hospital employees who are fathers and who were involved in my father’s case to take a minute and put themselves in this situation: Imagine one day you are complaining of upper respiratory problems and a bad back but still planning a tropical vacation with your wife and looking forward to your kid’s graduation or recital or baseball game, and then all of a sudden you have an inexplicable form of cancer, the source of which unknown, and you’re in a hospital bed 75 pounds lighter and in so much pain you need a constant morphine drip. HOW DOES IT FEEL?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!!??!!!

Of course to you people my father is one of hundreds, maybe thousands, admitted to your hospital every day. By now you are used to all the shock, tragedy, sobbing family members in the waiting room, and thus numb or immune to it. To you he was one of many, but to me, my mom, my sister, his granddaughter, his sister, his coworkers, his friends…He was the only. And now he’s gone.

So no, Hospital, I will not be attending any of your pathetic “bereavement” classes. You are delusional to think I would ever step foot in your facility again, and to think any of you could ever provide me with solace or comfort. In conclusion, fuck you.


James’s daughter


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