Leonard Zwelling

“Resentment is when you take
the poison and wait for the other guy to die”

         This is a quote from Carrie Fisher from
her one-woman show Wishful Drinking. I was fortunate enough to see it twice for
Ms. Fisher is a singular force of Hollywood nature with a pedigree that is hard
to beat. She is the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. She was once
married to Paul Simon and was left by a different significant lover for another
man. She has been in the movies since she was a child and was Princess Leia
before she was 21. In that role she was forced to portray a fantasy figure
without supporting under garments because Star Wars creator George Lucas had
determined that “there is no underwear in space”.

         As Ms. Fisher herself says, if it
weren’t funny, it would only be true.

         Her quote about resentment can be
paired with those about revenge of which there are dozens on the internet
starting with George Herbert’s about “living well being the best revenge”.

         Personally, I disagree with all of
them. I believe that revenge is the best revenge even as I acknowledge it is a
bit like taking poison and waiting for the other guy to die. Yes, it does
detract from your own holiness, but usually you are not feeling all that holy
toward those who have wronged you and upon whom you would like to heap revenge.

         I say all this for I have had very
mixed emotions as an observer of what is transpiring at MD Anderson of late.
The mixed emotions stem as much from not knowing as from resenting.

         I actually cannot tell how things are
really going for the faculty there, let alone for the other thousands of
employees. It appears to me that those on top are getting very wealthy, at
least as long as they can stay there. It also appears that getting to the top
and staying there have become more arbitrary than ever. I know the major
players and I cannot believe this is the best and the brightest that the
leading institution for cancer care in the country can do. Searches for key
positions don’t get done and appointments are just made. Competent people are
dismissed for no obvious reason or the reason given doesn’t pass the smell
test. Communications are more garbled than ever and the finances are seen
through a glass darkly if at all. Add all of this to clearly unethical doings
in the President’s office and you have as much clarity as there is around the
lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in September or in Benghazi the
September before.

         This is all easy for me to say as I am
out of the maelstrom that was the last 6 years of my MD Anderson career that
began with my removal as a VP in July of 2007 and ended with my retirement last
year. My new life at Legacy is great not so much because the problems are
smaller, but because I work with a group of people who really want to solve
them and who appreciate the complexities of American medicine in 2014, year 4
post ObamaCare, and who admit to the minefield we are trying to survive as we
tiptoe through it. American medicine is a real hurt locker.

I spend all day trying to get the doctors more involved in the
decisions that affect their lives and those of their patients while my former
colleagues at Anderson struggle to be heard by the high rolling administrators,
most of whom have no idea what it means to care for a patient with cancer.

         From my current vantage point, revenge
is indeed living well which I surely am doing despite my huge salary cut. Living
well is not just about money. When I choose to wallow in resentment, it is a
lot like waiting for those who wronged me to keel over, when all it does is
spoil my day.

         That being said, there is also a hope
on my part, that those people so responsible for the mess that is now the MD
Anderson Cancer Center are brought to some form of justice. Somehow the latest
changes in the Executive Suite make me believe this is becoming less and less
likely, but hope springs eternal. I can always wish that the resentment that I
feel and the revenge that I seek neither poisons me nor makes the place where I
spent 29 years of my career any weaker. My argument is, of course, that if the
right thing happened, I would be avenged and the institution I love will be
stronger for it. But this ain’t the movies.


         As I said, I can hope. But as my former boss Margaret Kripke
used to remind me, hope is not a strategy. Let’s assume for a moment that
living well is the best revenge. How’s that going for you out there?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *