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by Mai Brooks, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Today, I diagnosed metastatic cancer in a new patient who just came to see me, and I had to tell her.  This young beautiful vibrant woman will not live long, perhaps a few months.  There was nothing I could do for her.  All I could do was to tell her that I care for her, and to show her my professional “love.”  My assistant then faxed my consultation report to the patient’s referring primary physician.  An hour later, the physician called me, in disbelief.  Together on the phone, we shared a sense of profound loss.

You may read this and think that “love” is useless in this case.  Love will not cure her cancer; love will not protect her from the pain and suffering that is imminent.  And you would be absolutely correct.  But what is the alternative to love?  Is it hate?  Is it apathy?  When I was younger, I used to think that only actions and accomplishments are truly useful.  You can list them, objectively and concretely.  You can measure its productivity, compare it to other people’s, etc.  But when there is no useful action, as in this case, is there nothing left but despair?  When somebody hurts you, is there nothing to do but retaliate?  Medically, it has been shown that hate hurts you physically just as much, if not more, than the person you hate.  Scientifically, it has been shown that despair pains you mentally just as much, if not more, than the actual bodily trauma.

So, should you choose “love”, because it is the lesser of two evils?  Well, I certainly do not think so.  As I get older and accumulate more knowledge and experience, I realize more how little control I have over life in general.  Maybe you did not have a good childhood, perhaps people have done horrible things to you, natural disasters occur, and you are now helpless. 

Please realize that the only thing you have under your control is how you feel and react to external happenings.  Unless you have a psychiatric illness, you can choose to “love” or you can choose to “hate.”  None of us lives forever.  Do you want to wait until you’re laying in your deathbed to think “maybe I should have been nicer to this person, or that person?”  Or do you want to evaluate every day of your life whether you have contributed somehow some love to the world that day? 

I offer you my humble opinion that “Love is THE answer – every day of the year!”