I had a full caseload and many patients coming and going each day. The workload for Internal Medicine was extreme and I worked my first 35 days without a day off. Mr. Washington was my favorite patient. He was elegant and charming and polite. He cared more about me and my education and my state of mind than his own. It was clear he was in a great deal of pain but he didn't complain. He didn't want to be knocked out with pain killers.
One day on rounds I asked Mr. Washington if he had ever tried smoking marijuana. "Oh, honey, I've certainly had my share of weed. Do you think it might help?" I replied that I didn't know but it might help with his anxiety and take the edge off. I admitted I didn't have any access to it and couldn't really prescribe it. This was 1983.
When I rounded on him the next day, Mr. Washington looked a lot more comfortable. He had a sly look in his eye and he reached under his cover and offered me a tightly rolled joint. "This is for you if you want it", he said. "It was a splendid idea and I had a friend bring it in to me. It is helping a lot." I laughed at his ingenuity and told him he should save it for later. I got the distinct impression that he wanted me to stay and chat awhile but I had a new admit and was running from patient to patient. "I'll be back later", I said and I meant it. "I want to hear all about your life." I just knew it would be a fascinating story and I thought I would learn something about life from him. He seemed at peace with his cancer and his dying.
I never heard his life story and I regret that.
photo is taken in 1935 of an unknown sharecropper.