As oncologists, we encounter numerous patients on a daily basis and form emotional bonds with many of them, especially if they survive long enough and continue to see the same doctor for several years. This bond can grow so deep that we feel their pain, cry with them, and sometimes even realize that some of our patients are our soulmates.
According to Wikipedia, a soulmate is a person ideally suited to another as a close friend or romantic partner. However, to me, a soulmate is someone with whom you can share every thought and hardship, someone who is always there for you, and someone with whom you can understand each other’s feelings without speaking a word.
I want to share a story of a patient who became my friend and later, my soulmate. A few months ago, my senior doctor assigned me a patient as a test case and asked me to take a complete history, perform a physical exam, and make a tentative treatment plan.
When I entered the room, I was greeted by a middle-aged Pathan man who looked too comfortable to be a patient.
I introduced myself and learned that his name was Mr. F. He was 53 years old, worked at NAB (National Accountability Bureau), was single, and had never married. He lived in Islamabad and was very content with his life.
He was incredibly handsome with a mustache, a full head of hair, deep and intelligent eyes, and a smile that could light up a room. Despite knowing everything about him, he still referred to me with respect and address me as “aap,” “mohtarma,” or “madam.” Just looking at him made my heart melt.
We established a strong connection during our first meeting.
The real shock came when I read through all of his medical documents and discovered that Mr. F had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, a low-risk type that was limited only to his prostate. This was especially surprising as he was only 53 years old.
I was shocked to hear that someone without any family history of prostate cancer could be diagnosed with it, especially at the age of 53. His PSA level was 8, and he had been following it for three years before being diagnosed. But that’s fate.
I started treating him with hormonal therapy and radiation therapy; over time, he became a close friend of mine. We often had tea together in the hospital; he would even tell me about the best tea spots in Islamabad. Although he was shy, he never asked me out.
During one of his radiation follow-up appointments, I opened his medical records and asked him if it was true that he had been single all his life. He confirmed that it was true. I then asked him about the emergency contact listed on his face sheet, Mrs. F.
He blushed, and that was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
Then he told me about his story of unrequited love for a girl from a different sect within Islam. They could not marry due to sectarian differences, but she still cares for him even though she is now married to someone else.
He even criticized my sect for not allowing marriages outside of it, but I apologized on behalf of my community. I was too overwhelmed to tell him that my sister was actually married to a Sunni.
That day, I was extremely frustrated with God, but since then I pray for F’s health and happiness every day.
The saddest part of the story is that F declined the option of sperm banking, not because he could not afford it, but because he only wanted to have children with the love of his life.
F, you have truly broken my heart.
The author is an anonymous physician in Pakistan.