Dr. Vincent DeGennaro Jr. '02 | Apr. 2, 2014 | Notre Dame Magazine
“Doctor, my son hasn’t eaten since yesterday morning. Can you help us with some food?” Roberto’s mother asked me on the second morning of chemotherapy for a muscle tumor.
“He can eat. In fact, he should eat before chemotherapy,” I responded, not understanding her rural Creole accent right away. Many patients don’t eat when they visit the doctor because they believe that all blood tests need to be done while fasting. I assumed that he hadn’t eaten that morning, when in fact he hadn’t eaten since the day before.
Each time Roberto arrived for chemotherapy, he was slightly thinner, already a young man who couldn’t afford to lose weight. His wispy hair, gently falling out from the chemotherapy, started to turn red from protein malnutrition. Embarrassed that I misunderstood her Creole and ashamed that a patient went a day without eating while a part of our program, I immediately asked Gabrielle, the program coordinator, to offer his mother money to buy food on the street.