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Don Winslow

Brought to Poetry through Illness

Don is a retired chemical research engineer. He found poetry recovering from radiation treatment for prostate cancer. He was invited to read his poems on National Public Radio.

As a 78-year-old research chemical engineer who was 20 years into his retirement, he never expected to start writing poetry. His college training and 37-year career were exclusively technical, with a minimum of courses in the humanities.

Prostate cancer for him and breast cancer for his wife Marion jolted his calm, relaxing lifestyle and led him in a very different direction.

While recovering from radiation and a subsequent operation he took a workshop at the Wellness Community in Del Marva from John Fox on Healing Through Poetry. This new outlet for his raging emotions led to the Compassion 101 poem.

Compassion 101

Do Doctors take Compassion 101?

Are they taught how to treat us with kindness?

Can Considerate Cancer Care be instilled from without?

Compassion must come from somewhere, but where?

If Doctors do take Compassion 101

Do they get marks from the teacher?

Are there A students and B students?

And what about the dunce of the class?

Three doctors knew my prostate well,

One said, “Call me at anytime!”

The second said, “Daytime or nighttime!”

The third said, “Do you realize how many patients I would have to call?”

Should I feel lucky to have had two doctors with A's and only one with an F?

Originally written just for me it seemed to express the feelings of other patients. Interest in that poem led to invitations in 2005 and 2006 to speak to medical students at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey about the need for compassionate doctors.

Don Winslow
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