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Healing Setback
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Cancer Challenge
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Art transforms into compassion
Acknowledgement
Ann's story2
Contributed by a care-giver, Mr Gregory D. Pawelski living in USA, with permission from the author, William Santoro, MD

Ann's Flight

I met Ann in 1992. I have a busy practice so I can not say that I actually recall that first encounter, but I made enough of an impression on her that she returned. I learned through our visits that she was a widow. Then one day she came in with a boyfriend. They were to be married and needed to compromise on a few things. Things like where to live, which church to attend, which doctor to use? They wanted to have only one family doctor. Greg's doctor was closer to where they were to live, but Ann insisted that he come to me instead. I never knew he was sizing me up that first visit in 1994, but in the end it didn't matter, Ann was not leaving and that was that.

Greg joined Ann and became an established patient in my practice. That special kind of relationship between a doctor and patient was slowly being forged. There are social friendships and intimate friendships and then there are what I regard as the doctor-patient friendships. This is a friendship where there is a mutual trust and open honesty. It's that comfortable feeling that both the doctor and patient have upon seeing each other. Where information is communicated in both directions many times without words being spoken. I know Ann, Greg and I had reached this kind of friendship. Sadly I was involved with diagnosing her with cancer. It was 1996 when Ann's gynecologist diagnosed her with her first cancer. From then till her death she would ultimately be diagnosed with six different cancers. Once, just talking to Greg on the telephone I could hear in his voice there was something critically wrong with Ann. He took her to the specialist that had recently discharged her only to diagnose further problems. Ann persevered through a lot over the years and I could write a book no less a story about her ordeal. But that is not what Ann would want. Through it all Ann never complained. Ann was too busy living to dwell on dying. Ann ultimately died from complications of her seventh diagnosed cancer. Without a mean spirited word, Ann departed this stage after a courageous fight.

Shortly after her death I went to a local track to do some speed work. It was 5:30 in the morning so I had the track to myself. Or so I thought. On my first interval I saw a hawk circling above the track. I watched the graceful bird and the graceful bird watched me. I smiled and thought to myself, "do I really look that bad?"

At first I took it as a personal challenge. How dare this predator watch me thinking breakfast was only a stumble away? I ran and the bird circled. I walked between intervals. I saw the hawk settle on a fence not 5 yards off the track at the end of the back straight away. I passed by the hawk at least 20 times, sometimes running and sometimes walking. Note that during the running laps I would run directly at the hawk. The hawk never moved. The hawk just sat never taking a break from watching me. I really never felt threatened by my spectator. In fact a warm and relaxing feeling prevailed throughout my workout. I felt protected. On one walking lap I stopped and stood in front of the bird. I stared and the hawk stared back. Neither of us blinked. I walked to the left; it turned its head to the left. I walked to the right; it turned its head to the right. I gave in when I had to do the next interval. I walked past but the hawk never stopped staring. The hawk turned and followed me until I started the run.

As I finished my final interval, the hawk took flight and I thought it was leaving. I watched it fly over the top of the school until it was out of sight. I walked around to the front of the school passing a soccer field. There on the goal post, with 2 small birds on either side sat the hawk. I had been raised in the city and until my wife, who was raised at the base of Hawk Mountain, got me to settle in this relatively small town, I wouldn't have known a hawk from a duck. I did not think anything odd of this hawk sitting peacefully with the other 4 birds. Later several locals told me that my entire encounter with this hawk, especially the part where the hawk sat with the small birds was indeed unusual. I drove home thinking this was the end of my story and morning workout. But pulling into my driveway who do I see? There perched in the tree at the end on my driveway sat the hawk. Getting out of my car I just watched the hawk. Smiling I rhetorically asked, "What do you want?"

Later that week I was talking to Greg. It was then that he told me of a hawk that had been following him around. He said it seemed to be watching over him. He told me that Ann always loved hawks and often said that if she could come back as anything she wished it would be a hawk.

Months have gone by and I had not seen the hawk since that morning, but she still visits Greg and a few other friends as well. We all know it's just Ann keeping watch over those that love and miss her.

I had not seen the hawk for several months. I wrote this story on a Tuesday night. Wednesday morning I went for my 5:30 run. Two miles into the run it turns down a country road. Flying above and in front of me was the hawk. It stayed in front of me for the next 3 miles until I got home. Stretching after my run I realized the hawk did not follow me home... she led me there.

Dedicated to Ann 2-8-32 to 9-22-00


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