While Dr. Craig Cole was studying at Michigan State University, his grandmother Vesta announced to the family that she had advanced-stage colon cancer. “I had no intention of going into medicine at the time,” Dr. Cole recollects. “She called and asked me to come to Detroit to drive her to her appointment, and I skipped classes for the day to take her.”
At the clinic, he was horrified to see how unprofessionally his grandmother was treated. The doctor’s mother was the receptionist, and she told Vesta that if she wanted to be seen on time, she’d have to buy something from a closet full of used clothes.
“My mother bought some shoes for $20, so my grandmother could be seen at her scheduled time,” he says. The doctor told my grandmother, “Your cancer is getting worse, and we’re going to start you on more chemo tomorrow.”
Despite her doctor’s bullying, Vesta refused treatment. After a painful battle, she wanted to spend her remaining days in hospice. Before her passing, Vesta said to Dr. Cole, “I really think you could do better than that.” His life then took a different direction.
The beloved, bow tie-wearing myeloma specialist, who cares for a full slate of patients, also makes time in his schedule to participate in IMF educational programs. “As a physician, it’s my job to offer my patients options and to educate them, but also respect that as informed and empowered patients, their autonomy and wishes supersede my authority.”
At a past IMF Regional Community Workshop, Dr. Cole looked around the room and “realized that for so many patients, this is it. The IMF is the only one reaching out to patients in communities like these.” Today, Dr. Cole is a supporter of the IMF through The Hope Society, a monthly giving club.
When asked about a possible cure, Dr. Cole said, “If you were to ask me 10 years ago about a cure for myeloma, I would have said ‘I don’t know if that’s really possible.’ But there has been so much velocity moving forward toward cure, that now it’s pretty absolute. I am certain that it’s going to happen.”
Dr. Cole has a picture of his grandparents in his clinic, 30 years after visiting the doctor with his grandmother. “When I get off track and frustrated, it reminds me that I went into this line of work to treat people better.”
We applaud Dr. Cole for his dedication as a healthcare professional, volunteer, and donor.