I never announce when a patient of mine expires.
But this is different.
For me, if they die, or when they die, it’s unpleasant. I treat my patients like family.
While I still feel the emotional pain of his passing and can’t help to think how I could have done more to keep him around, if only for one more year, I’m happy to have had the privilege to work with Mr. Ryland as one of the members of his healthcare team.
You see, I build relationships with my patients. Intimate relationships. I tend to know the details of their biological chemistry and even how they are mentally wired.
When they expire, it feels like a family member is gone. One that I won’t see again.
But the truth is I learn from patients as much as I hope they learn from me.
Mr. Ryland was the first black tennis pro in the United States. I first met him as a much younger doc, fresh out of training twenty years ago, at a talk I gave on prostate cancer.
He was in the audience, and, after my talk, he had excellent, provocative questions on the use of dietary supplements for prostate cancer.
I had no idea he was a legend in tennis.
Never did I think he and I would ever meet again. Five years after our first encounter, he visited me at my office, looking for natural solutions for his urological issues.
Two years ago, he said to me, “Doc, just get me to a hundred.”
Mr. Ryland taught me about passion – particularly passion for life and the work you do. A humble man, he romantically talked about tennis but never spoke of his own extraordinary accomplishments in the sport.
I had to find out from others that he indeed was the first black tennis professional player in the United States.
He loved the sport of tennis and coached and played well into his 90’s. Mr. Ryland was dedicated to his sport.
He taught me that despite age and a history of prostate cancer, it is one’s responsibility to do the best he can to take care of oneself. “You can’t leave it all to doctors,” he once told me.
Always optimistic despite having joint pain as he aged, Mr. Ryland worked on feeling better with exercise, clean eating, and consuming nutritional supplements.
I am lucky to do the work I do and meet a Mr. Ryland type of person often. I’m inspired and motivated every day by people like him. And so, I thought to share his story with you too for inspiration and motivation.
Live with passion. Know that, ultimately, you are responsible for your health. And do the work.
Rest in peace, Mr. Ryland.