Mt. Vernon Register-News

November 8, 2007

More on Oza

My column in today's print edition of the Register-News talks about how I feel the legacy of Dr. Yagnesh Oza extends well beyond the Center for Comprehensive Cancer Care that he brought to Mt. Vernon.

It tells of how I believe Oza's real legacy is his passion for those he treats, as well as their families. I hinted in the column of my personal experience with "Doc Oza."

Here is the rest of the story:

My father was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2004, and died eight months later in St. Louis. He absolutely adored Oza despite not knowing him but for a very brief period of time. I first began hearing my dad talk about the "little guy" when he was driving himself to Oza's office for treatments, and later discovered for myself what he was talking about when I had to drive him to the office.

Near the end of my father's life, Oza had to ask me under which circumstances to allow him to be connected to life-clinging machinery. It was the first and only time I've ever had to answer such a question. I will never forget the patience Oza had with me that spring day, or the careful and thoughtful explanations he gave me as he walked me through various scenarios.

With the cancer center still under construction, Oza was forced to send my dad to St. Louis for treatment that could not be performed here. My dad died less than a week later. The treatment had not been performed, and when I called Oza and told him my dad wanted to come home, he fought through layers of bureaucracy to have him released. Unfortunately, it was too late. But Oza certainly did his part to help.

During those few months that I dealt with Oza, I learned to appreciate him as much as my dad had. His attitude made him fun to be around in a time that, quite simply, was not fun.

My dad talked of the cancer center and how he wished it had been complete before his treatments began. When he died, his fellow Walgreen's employees made a donation to the center in his name. And I was given a brick by then-marketing director Julie Long of St. Mary's Good Samaritan Hospital. The brick is to join others at the cancer center in memorializing those who have suffered the disease.

Crossing paths again with Oza this week reminded me that I never wrote on that brick and took it out there.

I think I'll do that this afternoon.