My Own Medicine: A Doctor’s Life as a Patient

Written by Dr. Geoffrey Kurland

Approaching his forty-first birthday, Dr. Geoffrey Kurland was a busy man. His work as a Pediatric Pulmonologist, caring for children with lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis and asthma, led to long hours on the wards at the University of California, Davis Medical Center. At the same time, he was in the midst of training for the Western States Endurance Run, a grueling 100-mile long footrace across the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. His long training runs, the responsibilities of patient care and teaching, and relationships attempting to replace his departed girlfriend occupied most of his life.

Dr. Kurland’s ordered world is suddenly turned upside-down when he is diagnosed with Hairy Cell Leukemia, a rare blood cancer with a low survival rate. His work, his running, and his friendships are altered by his struggle to survive. He finds he must undergo many of the procedures he performed on his patients, must endure surgery and chemotherapy, and must relinquish control of his life to his physicians, surgeons, and his disease. He learns first-hand what cannot be taught in medical school about the consuming power of a chronic illness and its treatment.

Confronting his own mortality, Dr. Kurland is now the patient while remaining a physician and runner. With the support of his physicians at the Mayo Clinic, the University of California, and the University of Pittsburgh, he resolves to continue to live his life despite his potentially fatal disease. He discovers his personal inner strengths as well as weaknesses as he struggles to confront his illness and regain some of the control he lost to it.

Along his nearly two and a half year journey, we follow Dr. Kurland as he endures surgical procedures, chemotherapy, and life-threatening complications of his illness. He emerges into remission with new inner strength and understanding of what it means to be a doctor. He also finds that he is still a runner, with the same goal, to run the 100 miles across the Sierra Mountains.

REVIEWS:
“Taut, dramatic, and intensely real…Very well written.” –Oliver Sacks, bestselling author of Seeing Voices and Hallucinations

“[My Own Medicine] should be required reading for every medical professional. Kurland never asks for sympathy or pity. […] What comes through powerfully is his humanity, which his own bout with illnesses has clearly enhanced, and from which both his patients and his readers will benefit.” ~The New York Times

“While training as a pediatric pulmonologist, Kurland told a patient, ‘I know how you feel’; years later, when he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, he discovered just how untrue this was. […] The way in which serious illness alters one’s sense of self and of life is compellingly expressed in this energetic, nervy narrative, as Kurland’s illness and eventual recovery collide with a host of profound shifts—a big career move, the death of a colleague, an unravelling relationship with his girlfriend, and a deepening one with his parents.” ~The New Yorker

My Own Medicine is rich in detail, enhanced by the author’s skillful handling of the narrative…The book depicts a man who, faced with the painful reality of his own mortality, acknowledges his condition and gears himself to face the challenge.” ~Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The story of Kurland’s battle with a disease that almost took his life is compelling and poignant. Unlike other chroniclers of illness, however, Kurland is a physician caring for critically ill children. Perhaps it is inevitable that his observations on life, death, and suffering should be so informed by his work. The result is a narrative that is both unique and deeply insightful.” ~Abraham Verghese, bestselling author of Cutting for Stone and My Own Country

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