I wrote this poem during my internal medicine inpatient rotation about a cancer patient we rounded on daily. Although he was doing fairly well under the circumstances, the difference in his appearance and demeanor before and after losing his hair was striking. As a medical student, I have learned much more from my patients than any lecture.

On the first day I walked in the
hospital room
trailing behind, white coats aflutter

I noticed a thick head of white gray hair
and a cancer diagnosis
a cheerful pair of round rimmed glasses

and this happened every morning
for two, three maybe, days
and I was astounded
at his vitality

then one day
all of it was gone

“was he wearing a wig before?”
I asked the intern
but no, it had fallen
all at once
the night before

The day after
the glasses were the same
but the face was not

and the daughter was standing by the bed
he was asking questions
we were talking about diet
and a sudden sob from him
“I’m not crying because I’m sad; I’m crying because I can”

The room was fuller
but emptier as we filed out
no one said another word.


Megan Angermayer is an M3 from Kansas. She doesn’t have a lot of interesting facts about herself, but her husband has endless patience for flashcards, her dad is a peach farmer, her mom is an awesome accountant, her best friend is an opera singer, and her brother is an aspiring sword blacksmith. So far no one has been impaled.

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