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Atul Gawande


The Best Possible Day

Article by Atul Gawande, published in The New York Times

A COUPLE of years ago, I got a call from the husband of Peg Bachelder, my daughter Hunter’s piano teacher. “Peg’s in the hospital,” Martin said.

She’d been treated in 2010 for a rare pelvic cancer requiring chemotherapy, radiation and radical surgery.

She returned to teaching and refilled her student roster in no time. She was in her early 60s, tall, with a lovely, gentle way that made her immensely popular. Two years later, however, she developed a leukemia-like malignancy caused by her treatment. She went back on chemotherapy but somehow kept teaching. Then for two straight weeks, Peg postponed Hunter’s lessons. That was when I got Martin’s call from the hospital.

He put his cell on speaker for Peg. She sounded weak and spoke in long pauses. She said the leukemia treatment was not working. It had impaired her immune system, however, making her sick with fevers and an infection. Imaging also showed that her original cancer had come back in her hip and liver. The recurrent disease caused immobilizing hip pain and made her incontinent. That was when she checked into the hospital. She didn’t know what to do.

What had the doctors said they could do? I asked. 

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