Share this article on:

POETRY BY CANCER CAREGIVERS: ‘Doctor, May I Whisper in His Ears?’

Pemmaraju, Naveen MD

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000383070.42830.a8

He was a champion

In the marathon-sprint of life

A seasoned warrior

Whose last days will be fought in the hospital

Whose last breaths will be made by the machine

The family descended on the floor

And surrounded their son

A twenty-something boy actively dying from metastatic germ cell tumor

As if protecting him from us

The patient's every last crushing harsh breath

His agony, his pain, his misery so evident

Rendering it impossible for his mother to watch any longer

The firm handshake of his tough, dignified father

Who was doing everything in his power to hold his emotions back

The fading smile of his tired mother

The hug of his grandmother

I remember my conversations with his family so well

On the eve of this boy's passing

The day before his cancer would get the best of him

His rugged father pulled me aside, flowing past his son

And asked, “doctor, may I whisper in my son's ears?”

To give him permission to leave this earth

You see, his frail mother had run dry from days of bitter hot tears

I thought about this profound question for a bit

I resolutely, purposefully turned to the stately father

And slowly nodded “yes”

His satisfied smile and sublime look were not as moving to me

As the one small, silent, recalcitrant tear that trickled down his left cheek

Submissions are welcome from oncologists, oncology nurses, and other cancer caregivers. E-mail only, please, to:, and include affiliation/title, address, and phone number, along with a photo, if available.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
Home  Clinical Resource Center
Current Issue       Search OT
Archives Get OT Enews
Blogs Email us!