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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Do You Really Have Cancer?

An article in The Wall Street Journal (August 25, 2023), "Are You Sure You Have Cancer? ...Misdiagnoses are all too common..." aroused several thoughts. An excellent older book, Should I Be Tested For Cancer? Maybe Not and Here's Why, by H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., M.P.H. is well worth reading. And regarding misdiagnoses: years ago I was diagnosed with glaucoma by a local ophthalmologist/glaucoma specialist ("You have a little glaucoma in both eyes. Do you want laser or drug treatment?"). Distrusting him because of his personality and office staff's unprofessionalism (the receptionist being on the phone with her boyfriend), I went for a second opinion to a world famous glaucoma expert in NYC. After examination he said that not only did I not have glaucoma but that in his entire career he had never seen glaucoma in eyes like mine (I have unusually thick cornea in both eyes). Had I stayed with the first doctor I might have wound up blind and you can imagine the unneeded stress he caused me. For something serious in a non-emergency situation, ALWAYS get a second opinion from a noted authority in another town. It's well worth traveling for.









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Be Careful Who You Marry! - A Cautionary Tale

My gifted, now deceased dentist, loved to make jokes and was one of the two authentic geniuses I met in my life. The other was a multi-lingual Columbia University professor whose advice oddly sticks in my mind: that to learn Mandarin well one needs a Mandarin speaking grandmother. But to return to my story. My dentist discovered a new antibiotic while a teenager, was rejected by medical schools because he was Jewish (it was that time in America) and became a dentist. After graduation he was offered admission to medical schools but refused, having opened a Manhattan practice that prospered. Decades after his marriage to an enormously wealthy foreign heiress, their photo was on the cover of a national magazine, its accompanying article lauding "Manhattan's power couple" blissfully approaching retirement. A year later, after their divorce, the dentist told me his ex-wife said the most hurtful thing she could: "I never thought your jokes were funny!"

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Confession Time/Thank you, Madonna! (Note: I've changed the student's name)

As high school reunions arrive and one gets older, one wonders how other lives turned out. Yet, decades later, I remembered the name of only one fellow student, Gene, and not favorably.

An old saying is that one forgets those who have done us favors but never forgets those who humiliated us and I found this to be true. Throughout my life, Gene's name burned within my psyche.

During my lonely high school days he had seemed a Gatsby-like figure. Handsome and popular, always nattily dressed and with his intended goal of Yale, he would have been a shoe-in for Homecoming King had my school such a celebration. I envied his friendships from within my social circle of one.

Gene spoke to me only once. As he approached, I felt proud, anticipating that he would value me as a friend and share his approval with others and I would gain friends and especially a girlfriend. But he only wanted to borrow money, which I lent him and he never repaid. Nor did he approach me again.

Several years later I read in the high school newsletter that Gene had died young of cancer. From his obituary in The New York times, I learned that our professional lives were similar. We both earned doctoral degrees and wrote books but these were common achievements for graduates of my selective high school from which eight graduates won the Nobel Prize and seven won the Pulitzer Prize, more than any other secondary education institution in the United States. Yet I gained an achievement which, almost certainly, no other graduate had.

Years after graduating, while driven to a Manhattan TV interview and stopped at a red light, the limousine driver turned to me and said, "Madonna was the last person to sit where you're sitting." With this, I instantly told myself, "Gene, you bastard, I beat you!"

So, thanks to luck and Madonna, I did vanquish Gene in the long Game of Life.

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 Guns in America

An August 1, 2023 article in The Wall Street Journal ("Why America's Gun Laws Are in Chaos - Judges clash over history a year after Supreme Court upended how courts decide Second Amendment cases") aroused my thoughts.

During a class that I once attended, the firearms instructor gave memorable advice: you don't point a gun at someone unless you're willing to shoot them; a good reason for not shooting someone is to avoid being involved in many years of unpleasant litigation; during an ongoing crime you don't want to reveal you are armed since these are the first people being shot; what is considered a self-defense shooting is a complex legal issue.

Thus, perhaps courts would approve of mandating minimal training for gun carrying and restrictions on minors.

I never felt uneasy when patients carried a (licensed) concealed gun in my office, assuming with the police officers that they did and with a few others that they might. One judge quickly signed the concealed carry permit of a nurse working the night shift at a hospital treating addicts, stating she needed a gun.

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