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“You know more than you should.”

It was Saturday, three days after the surgeon’s gentle but unmistakable pronouncement that my wife, Ruth, had breast cancer. I was on the phone with a longtime colleague who was trying to talk me out of my gloomy mood. He reminded me that as a physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York who only takes care of patients admitted to the hospital, I often see only those who are critically ill.

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