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April 6, 2022

[I’ve been sharing monthly Communication Tips with my UCSF communities for more than two years now. But I’ve been a bit hesitant to share everything as I’ve tried to figure out my own work/life balance. The following is a personal reflection shared freely with my beloved UCSF work family. If you are interested, please accept this in the spirit in which it was written. But, for sure, this is not required reading!]

Dear Mount Zion Community,

It started 13 years ago with exercise-induced double vision and dizziness. I had a ton of alternate but easier to accept explanations (being out of shape, someone must have sat on my glasses). After 6 months, when my wild fear that I must have a brain tumor finally exceeded my reluctance to admit something was wrong, I went to my PCP, and got an MRI of my head.

When the results were back, I walked down the hall from my own clinic office to his. When it was time for him to break the bad news, he did a good job, following advice that would later appear in this very column… when delivering bad news, start with a warning shot. People need time to prepare.

“There was something on the scan.”

Multiple Sclerosis.

For a half-second, I was relieved it wasn’t cancer (how strong the stigma of cancer is!). Then, I was in disbelief. How is it possible for there to be something really wrong with me? And alone. How come I didn’t think to bring my wife Barb with me to this appointment?

In a daze, with my mind swirling, I finished the rest of that workday (and then all the days since then) with a secret illness myself as I went about caring for others as their doc.

I told Barb that night...

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