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Doctor Tells How It Really Is--for Patient

March 23, 1993|KATHRYN BOLD

Edward Rosenbaum, the doctor whose battle with cancer was dramatized in the movie "The Doctor," gave the real-life account of his experience at a Hoag Cancer Center benefit.

About 380 people turned out to hear Rosenbaum at the Circle 1000 Sixth Annual Founders' Brunch, held last week at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach. Along with underwriting donations, the $100-per-person brunch raised about $262,000 for the cancer center.

Man Behind the Movie

After a breakfast of eggs benedict, Rosenbaum gave his reaction to the film.

"There's a big difference between the movie and my life," he said. "In the movie I'm 40 years younger, and I have hair."

In addition, the movie portrays Rosenbaum as a cardiac surgeon living in San Francisco. Actually, Rosenbaum was chief of rheumatology at the University of Oregon's Health Science Center when he became ill.

Rosenbaum's ordeal began in 1985 with a lingering sore throat that sent him to the office of a colleague for a quick examination. He soon learned first-hand the frustrations of being a patient. He suffered through five months of misdiagnoses. His status as a doctor did not prevent him from being kept waiting--sometimes for hours--in a doctor's office.

"The illness caused me to take another look at my profession," he said.

His subsequent victory over cancer of the vocal cords became the subject of his best-selling novel, "Taste of My Own Medicine," as well as the basis for "The Doctor," starring William Hurt.

Rosenbaum had a brief part in the movie, playing a doctor whose only line is saying "hi" to Hurt.

"We filmed that scene 21 times," he said. "You miss it if you blink your eye."

Despite the complaints he had regarding his treatment, Rosenbaum is still grateful to the medical profession.

"If my grandfather had had cancer of the vocal cords he would have died of it. If my father had it he would have lost his voice box," he said. "I'm here today, I'm alive and I'm able to talk to you."

Common Cause

Rosenbaum was speaking to a sympathetic audience--many in the crowd have been affected by cancer.

"One of our primary reasons for supporting the center is that our daughter had cancer surgery in August, 1992," said Wesley Bellwood, president of the Wynn Foundation. His daughter, Diane Stewart, is a nurse at Hoag and attended the brunch.

Arden Flamson, a cancer survivor whose husband, Richard, died of leukemia, is another strong supporter.

"Not too many people have better reasons to support the cancer center than I do," she said.

Circle 1000 was formed in 1988 to provide financial support to the Newport Beach cancer center. The group asks for just one donation annually and supporters respond generously; this year one underwriter gave more than $25,000. So far, the group has raised $1.4 million.

"There was a need for a group that did not have to attend meetings or spend a lot of time--all they had to do is support the center financially," said Sandy Sewell, founding chairwoman, who attended with husband Richard.

Proceeds go to the center's education programs, patient care and research.

Other supporters were Ginny Ueberroth, chairwoman; Sue Winn, acting director of the Hoag Cancer Center; Dr. Robert Dillman and his wife Jacquelyn, Fran Applegate, William and Edna Blurocks, Sherry Cagle, Louise Ewing, Lula Halfacre, Kellina Hayde, Charles and Nora Hester, Anabel Konwiser, Judith Swedlund, Lynn Thomas, Libby Tobin and Janet Curci Walsh.

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