Gupta: The friend I can't fix
June 16th, 2011
04:04 PM ET

Gupta: The friend I can't fix

Programming note:  On Saturday, June 25, Nick Charles lost his battle with cancer. On Sunday, CNN will rebroadcast Dr. Sanjay Gupta's special report, "Nick Charles:  Lessons from the Fight," at  7:30 a.m. ET.

I like to fix things.

As far back as I can remember, I was the person who took broken things apart with the confidence that I could put them back together, while making them better. “Call Sanjay,” my mom would often tell her friends if they were confronted with a problem. At first it was lamps and clocks, or perhaps a dry wall that didn’t fit quite right or an edge of carpeting that always bunched up. It evolved into malfunctioning dishwashers, ovens, radios and computers. I helped my dad restore an old MGB when I was a teenager, after having practiced on a 1975 Ford Granada, and an even older lime green LTD.

It is perhaps what drew me to neurosurgery and the opportunity to tend to injured or diseased brains and spinal cords. There has always been great satisfaction in “fixing” things. It is also part of the reason I am so frustrated when I cannot.

When I decided to visit my friend Nick Charles in Santa Fe, New Mexico, my stomach was in knots. He was dying of stage 4 bladder cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes and his lungs. He had stopped his chemotherapy, and his disease was progressing. I desperately wanted to help Nick, to “fix” him in some way. I wanted to share as many medical options as possible, even while knowing they were not likely to help. I was nervous, and thought I should fill the void of silence that often accompanies the awkwardness of discussing death. With a broad smile, Nick gave me a hug, put me at ease and quickly started teaching me lessons from his fight.

He was thankful that I had come to visit him at all. Too many of his friends simply disappeared, either incapable of talking to a dying man, or too fearful of being forced to confront their own mortality. Some were just too sad, he told me, and they completely withdrew. Simply having me listen to him talk about his life and his fears was a great gift, he told me.

Nick didn’t want any false assurances. It would have been insincere to tell him he looked great. With the dark rings under his eyes, his astounding weight loss, along with the loss of his hair, and the impact of the chemotherapy on his skin, he looked sick. Suggesting otherwise would’ve brought the conversation to a halt, because Nick Charles would have seen right through that. Cancer had not taken away his insight or his intelligence.

We talked about things Nick enjoyed, mainly sports. Nick was the original sports anchor at CNN, and could teach you about any sport, but especially boxing. We talked about the various fights he had covered, including the one he announced for HBO this year. At one point he paused, and told me he was in a fight himself. He was fighting like hell for his life, and it didn’t look like he was going to win. It was jarring to hear. “So, what are you going to do about it?” I asked him with a smile. He laughed out loud.

“Short term goals,” he told me. We all probably spend too much time focusing on the long-term that we forget what is right in front of us. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes being smacked in the face with your own mortality to realize it. Another thing Nick does regularly is to keep a journal. He may write a note to a family member or just write down thoughts from the day. Helps focus the mind and prioritize your life, he said.

Nick also taught me that dying forced him to live in the present in a way he hadn’t done before. But, that didn’t mean he couldn’t dream and still imagine his future. Even though he was told he had less than 2 years to live, he and his wife decided to build their dream house and Nick picked out colors, designed the rooms and purchased a piano for the family room, even though he is unlikely to spend much time there.

He also still imagines calling fights as he did for HBO in March, even though it is difficult to travel, his voice has become weaker and he is requiring oxygen. With the loss of remaining time, Nick’s dreams have become grander, and it was easy for me to see how that has  made him happy.

Nick took me into the construction site of the new house, walked me over to the closet where his 5-year-old daughter, Giovanna, will hang her clothes, and dreamed out loud of the dress she would one day wear to her prom. It’s a dress he will most likely never get to see. His face fell to pieces, and his composure broke, as he told me this. Openly sobbing, he apologized for the tears. And then, I lost it as well. I was choked up for the losses my friend Nick would endure.

“It’s OK,” he said as we walked outside. Two grown men, slightly misty eyed, thinking about their daughters, his hand on my shoulder. I was the guy who was supposed to fix things, but I knew I couldn’t take Nick apart and put him back better. “It’s OK,” he repeated, as if reading my thoughts. Try as hard as we might, we can’t always fix everything.

soundoff (494 Responses)
  1. trailer service near me

    I seriously love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you develop this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m trying to create my own personal blog and would love to know where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Kudos!


    May 7, 2021 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Seo Marketing Companies


    May 7, 2021 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. rv collision repair

    Hello! I simply would like to give you a big thumbs up for the excellent info you have got here on this post. I'll be returning to your blog for more soon.


    May 7, 2021 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Internet Marketing Services

    You should take part in a contest for one of the greatest sites on the net. I will recommend this site!


    May 8, 2021 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Internet Marketing Services California


    May 8, 2021 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Social Media Marketing Pros

    Greetings, I do think your web site could be having web browser compatibility problems. Whenever I take a look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, great site!


    May 8, 2021 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Social Media Marketing Businesses Near Me


    May 8, 2021 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Social Media Marketing Near Me

    Can I simply say what a relief to uncover somebody that really understands what they're discussing over the internet. You certainly understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people ought to look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you are not more popular since you surely possess the gift.


    May 8, 2021 at 05:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Local Marketing Companies

    I used to be able to find good information from your articles.


    May 8, 2021 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Content Marketing Companies

    May I just say what a comfort to find someone who genuinely understands what they're discussing on the internet. You actually know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people should check this out and understand this side of the story. It's surprising you are not more popular since you most certainly possess the gift.


    May 8, 2021 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Social Media Marketing Event


    May 8, 2021 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Local Marketing Companies Near Me

    Great info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident (stumbleupon). I have book marked it for later!


    May 8, 2021 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. rv restoration companies


    May 8, 2021 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Local Marketing Masters


    May 8, 2021 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Seo Marketing Agencies

    This excellent website certainly has all the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 8, 2021 at 21:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Local Marketing Near Me

    I'd like to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this blog. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade content by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own site now 😉


    May 8, 2021 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Seo Marketing Companies


    May 9, 2021 at 03:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Social Media Marketing Companies Orange County


    May 9, 2021 at 04:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Content Marketing Quote

    This website really has all the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 9, 2021 at 11:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Local Marketing Service


    May 9, 2021 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Digital Marketing Companies Near Me

    Saved as a favorite, I love your web site!


    May 9, 2021 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Google Marketing Jobs

    You need to take part in a contest for one of the best websites on the net. I will highly recommend this blog!


    May 9, 2021 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Washing Los Angeles

    Very good info. Lucky me I found your site by accident (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!


    May 9, 2021 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Seo Marketing Consultants


    May 9, 2021 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Video Marketing Near Me

    That is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise information… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!


    May 9, 2021 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Bathroom California

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thank you so much, However I am having problems with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I am unable to join it. Is there anybody having similar RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    May 9, 2021 at 23:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Content Marketing Programs

    I really like reading an article that will make people think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!


    May 10, 2021 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Google Marketing Service

    After I originally commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!


    May 10, 2021 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Content Marketing Reviews


    May 10, 2021 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Social Media Marketing Santa Ana


    May 10, 2021 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Social Media Marketing Agency

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it does not fail me just as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read, but I actually believed you would have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something that you can fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.


    May 10, 2021 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Seo Marketing Specialist

    That is a very good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Simple but very accurate information… Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read article!


    May 11, 2021 at 02:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Seo Marketing Firms

    This is the right website for everyone who wants to understand this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a topic that's been discussed for years. Great stuff, just great!


    May 11, 2021 at 02:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Social Media Marketing Businesses Near Me


    May 11, 2021 at 03:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Seo Marketing Services

    Excellent site you have here.. It’s difficult to find good quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 11, 2021 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Seo Marketing Videos


    May 11, 2021 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Social Media Marketing Programs


    May 11, 2021 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Digital Marketing Specialists


    May 11, 2021 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Digital Marketing Firms

    Good info. Lucky me I recently found your site by chance (stumbleupon). I've saved as a favorite for later!


    May 11, 2021 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Authorized Mercedes Sprinter Service Centers Near Me

    This website certainly has all the information and facts I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 11, 2021 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. dashboard repair shop near me


    May 11, 2021 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Ford Van Repair

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you can remove me from that service? Appreciate it!


    May 12, 2021 at 06:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. best car ac repair near me

    Howdy, I believe your website could be having web browser compatibility problems. When I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to give you a quick heads up! Besides that, fantastic blog!


    May 12, 2021 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Driver Seats Los Angeles

    When I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the exact same comment. There has to be an easy method you can remove me from that service? Kudos!


    May 12, 2021 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RV Refrigerator Riverside

    Good info. Lucky me I found your blog by chance (stumbleupon). I have bookmarked it for later!


    May 12, 2021 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. bucket truck services


    May 12, 2021 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Repair Service


    May 12, 2021 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. where to buy rv furniture

    Great post. I am facing some of these issues as well..


    May 12, 2021 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Bathroom Near Me


    May 12, 2021 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Shades Near Me


    May 13, 2021 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.