Letters, I Get Letters


Leonard Zwelling

long, long time ago, a singer named Perry Como was a fixture on television. He
hosted a very popular variety show and sold millions of records. Toward the end
of each of his shows, he would read letters sent to him requesting that he sing
favorite songs of viewers. He usually sang a couple. The segment began with a
chorus singing “letters, we get letters, we get stacks and stacks of letters”.

those of you unsure of what a letter is in the age of email, it is a form of
written, often hand written, communication on paper sent via the US mail that a
recipient reads. I cannot speak for all of you, but the majority of what the
postal service brings to my home consists of bills and junk mail. It is rare
for me to get a real letter any more and if you exclude holiday and birthday
cards, it is rarer still. Email is faster and simpler for the sender. But email
is not as personal or as thoughtful. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to
receive a few letters of late.

letters I have received are about the blog and they are all positive. They are
encouraging me to continue writing and that is very gratifying, but as Groucho
Marx (my hero) once paraphrased Proverbs 27:2 on the Dick Cavett Show,
“self-praise is no praise”. What has surprised me about the anonymous and some
signed communication I have received is the recurrence of several themes:

1.     Keep
going with the writing.

2.     You
are telling us things we never knew about how MD Anderson operates.

3.     We
are embarrassed by the behavior of our leadership and the reporting of the
behavior in the lay press.

4.     The
letters and emails are all similarly characterized by a combination of fear,
worry, angst and anger.

to all of you who have written, whether or not you have signed your
communiqués, thank you, thank you, thank you. It has meant a great deal to me
to know you are out there and some how what I am writing is resonating. Keep
writing to me in any way you wish. 
I am totally understanding of your reluctance to use electronic means
for fear of it being monitored. As it says on the billboard outside of Dirk’s
on Montrose and Brainard, the mascot of the NSA is the monitor lizard.  I think it is also the mascot of the MD
Anderson email team and even if it is not, everyone believes it is, thus
spreading that fear around a bit more.

you want to reach me by interoffice mail, the Unit is 1950. I am happy to take
phone calls as well but your anonymity may not be maintained on my cell phone
(713-859-8714). If you want another email address other than the one assigned
to me at Anderson, you can always use Leonard.zwelling@gmail .com. Or, if you
prefer the personal touch, I’m the old guy walking around the medical center
with a blue canvas computer bag and, so far, still able to get around on my own
power thanks to some excellent physicians, many on our own faculty.

thanks everyone. Please keep the faith. This may be the institutional
equivalent of the “dark night of the soul”, but there is light at the end of
the tunnel. Let’s just hope it is not the on-coming train of financial

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