We went to see WIT at the Manhattan Theater Club this past week.  I didn't love the play but there is certainly something about the content that is thought provoking. 

The play is about a college professor who is an expert in the poetry of John Dunn.  Dunn being a metaphysical poet who mastered the english language.  Cynthia Nixon plays the professor who has stage 4 ovarian cancer.  Not a warm and welcoming woman with few friends or any and takes absolute pride in her intellect. 

Over the course of the play she is given eight intense doses of radiation.  The doctors know that the chances of success are abysmal but in essence use her for research to understand cancer.  She knows it and is willing to go along with it until the end. 

When my Mom got sick, I saw the same thing in regards to research.  There is a fine line between being a doctor and saving lives and also gathering as much data to understand diseases so that cures can eventually be found.  My Mom was diagnosed with brain cancer and within one week of that diagnosis she had surgery.  Two weeks later when she was going to go into chemo they took another MRI to pin point the right spots for treatment.  The tumor had already grown back, bigger. 

I found myself with a new surgeon at another hospital who basically told me that he could do surgery again and could prolong her life.  Really?  Why do you think that you can do any better than the last doctor when her cancer is obviously aggressive.  I do…research. 

The other thing is that the pain that the professor was in at the end was terrible.  Is that necessary that people who know that the end is near have to go through that? 

Did I like the play?  No.  Did I appreciate how the playwright was trying to educate the audience?  Yes.  I have lived it and they really did hit the experience spot on. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. FinLit

    A sad but realistic commentary about the subtle agendas of doctors.  A “good doctor” would make that agenda known.  The learning curve is ongoing as with any challenge of importance but the patient should be the only decision-maker when the learning is to benefit others.

    1. Gotham Gal

      unfortunately my mom was not able to be a part of that decision because she was not mentally fully functioning

      1. FinLit

        I am so sorry and I cannot imagine the overwhelming responsibility you shouldered.  Cancer is tough on everyone–patient, family, doctors.  I have unending appreciation for the care that I received as a cancer patient–I am completely healthy(!) and my doctor tells me to expect to remain healthy! (not what I was told to expect before treatment.)  I was asked to participate in a non-invasive research to determine a possible correlation between two types of cancer based on life-style and habits.  I agreed but recall all aspects of the study were explained to me by the research doctor and there was NO pressure or insistence that I participate–forms to sign as well as the option to rescind my agreement for a period of time after I agreed to participate.  We are all in this together.

        1. Gotham Gal

          you had a good experience which is amazing. you are also young.the type of cancer my mom had is one that doctors have not been able to figure out. where does it come from and why does it happen so quickly? as one doctor said to me afterward, it is like being hit by lighting, a death sentence. taking a step back and looking at the situation from a birds eye view I do understand the doctors desire to do surgery again. First of all, they are in the business of saving people, they are also in business and the business gets better when they are able to improve their statistics by gathering more data.yet from a personal view, I was taken back by their entire approach. Why could a new doctor think that they could do a better job than the first when the cancer was obviously aggressive. Why would they put a 72 year old woman through that again? What makes them god? They also could not honestly answer me about what would her life be post the second surgery? Could she go to the theater with her friends, would she be able to actually have an intellectual conversation, would she be able to do the crossword, would she be able to be alone? Would she be able to take a fantastic last trip? All answers were so ridiculously vague except that they felt she might be able to spend some more time, on the couch, with her grandchildren at her feet. That was not my mother and that was not her relationship with us or her grandchildren.We opted against the surgery and two days of chemo absolutely destroyedher. It was apparent to all of us that this was not something she couldbeat but perhaps prolong in a way that she would not want to be living. Itwould have been hell for her and us. She had made that very clear to us asyoung kids, “if I ever get like this, kill me.” She died very soonafterward knowing that we made a decision that had to be made. It wasdifficult but it was realistic at least for her. What is the mostoverwhelming and shocking about the whole thing is that from the time ofdiscovery until her death it was about six weeks. Perhaps the best way togo in the long run but that was like being hit with a bolt of lightening.

          1. FinLit

            Heartbreaking and the pain is still raw which I feel for you.  I think you should take comfort, and I would if faced with this sadness, knowing that you respected your mother’s wants and wishes–you did not only the “right” thing (from what your shared) but the “only” thing you could do.  Your mother is safe and heavenly knowing she brought up such a loving daughter.  Take pleasure and peace in knowing this too.

          2. Gotham Gal

            thanks holly.

          3. FinLit

            Thank you too…I am reminded often to support others as I was lucky to be at a very difficult time. 

  2. CCjudy

    I saw WIT somewhere around 14th St when it opened years ago and It got to me – Its different I think when you actually lived w the experience with someone you love.

  3. ellen

    My sister decided not to treat her tumor.  The surgery would probably have left her blind and with many other problems.  The doctors wanted to do surgery in 1994. She said NO,  and she is still around with all her senses.  It is very slow growing and we have been so lucky.  Gliobastomas are a totally different matter.  Everyone I have known no matter what their age who have gone through the surgery etc. do not have good outcomes.I saw the movie WIT and I was appalled at the end of the movie, but this is medicine today. There is very little humanity.

    1. Gotham Gal

      There is very little humanity.My friend sat on the board of the Gold Foundation which deals with humanity in medicine. Arnold Gold, who is a doctor and started this group is quite amazing. Check it out. http://humanism-in-medicine

  4. ellen

    I am going to forward this to my friend’s son.  He is a  2nd year resident and has gone to Uganda and other places  with Paul Farmer.Still the majority of health care lacks humanity and with the new aco’s and acq’s initiatives we can forget about any kind of good care now that money is involved not to treat.

  5. FinLit

    What is aco and acq? Thanks for letting me know.

  6. ellen

    Accountable care organizations and accountable care quality.   A prepayment method to doctors and hospitals to give a global payment for each patient.  The less you do for your patient the more the doctors and hospitals keep in the way of bonuses and prepayments.  It is a way to incentivise doctors and hospitals to do less for their patients or they will be penalized financially.  There is really no way to manage quality when a patient is discharged from a hospital and dies because of lack of good care. Medicare and others are using this model already but it has, yet to be proven, as cost saving. The word quality is interjected,  but it is really managed care at it’s worst.

  7. Ella

    Bless your heart for having gone through such a sad situation with your Mom but, bravo for being brave enough to attend this play (I’ll stick with the musicals!). Thank you for being brave; we all gain strength from shared experiences. 

  8. pixiedust8

    I have not seen Wit, but my mother also had gallbladder cancer, which is very rare and very aggressive. I think her first doctor completely bungled things, and didn’t suggest a surgical oncologist and didn’t do a PET scan before surgery to see just how much the surgeon needed to take out.Her next doctor was really great. I think he was realistic and didn’t push anything crazy, but did his best to treat her. (Her chemo actually didn’t cause her much discomfort at all.) I didn’t pursue any action against the first doctor because, even if he did things correctly, she wouldn’t have had much of gain in terms of life span because of this particular type of cancer. However, it made me realize how little you know about cancer and treatment methods until you actually go through it. If anyone else in my family had cancer, I would make sure things were done a certain way. 

  9. ellen

    In the aco world of medicare   and  insurance utilization boards you have to ask the first doctor whether his income and provider standing at the insurance company  would be penalized if he suggested a pet scan?  Would he have to spend an hour on the phone to get an authorization from Medicare  o to  a private insurance company to do one?  It is all about medical rationing.

  10. Cynthia Schames

    Joanne, thank you for sharing such a painful and private experience. My own Mom battled cancer as well, for seven long years.  When she finally did pass, her cancer was in remission, but the combination of chemo, radiation, and experimental drugs was too much for her other systems. She went into her fight with Stage 4 breast cancer knowing that it was going to be too little, too late, but she was brave enough to suffer for years in the hope that she might help someone else someday.  Her case was part of the Tamoxifen clinical trials, and as much as I am still distraught and angry at her loss ten years later, I’m incredibly proud of the sacrifice she chose to make. She knew that she was a guinea pig, and she attacked that head on just like she did with everything else in her life. She was a fighter, all 4’10” of her, and I hope I can be half as ballsy if life ever hands me a steaming bowl of hot hell like it did her. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      wow. stage 4. that is tough. she more than likely saved many womens lives as that research probably changed the way doctors deal with breast cancer.

      1. Cynthia Schames

        Thanks, Joanne. I hope that is true!

  11. ellen

    When a loved one is sick you want to concentrate on their options and outcomes,  not  the financial  motives of the medical profession.I saw it both ways. Before 1982 you could concentrate on your loved one.  After 1982 you had to concentrate on making sure the drg’s and hospital profit motives didn’t throw your very sick loved one out on the street.

  12. guest

    John Donne?

    1. Gotham Gal

      yep. english poet.