Death is Part of Our Job

David and Caitlin join us today to discuss how cancer invades our lives, moving from our professional life into our personal space. Caitlin shares how her father was diagnosed with three different types of cancer and how she felt about the overnight transition from visiting her husband at work for lunch to regularly visiting the clinic as her father’s caregiver. We discuss how our role as medical oncologists can impact how we handle death in our personal lives and how David and Caitlin talk to their children about death and dying, the uncomfortable convergence between our personal and professional lives when someone we know and love is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and what it’s like when we need to take care of a colleague\’s family member. They also share their memories and experiences of involving hospice care, how grief and the grieving process impacts people differently, and how Caitlin’s father passing away impacted their perspectives on death and dying.

Born and raised in Marshalltown, IA, Dr. David Groteluschen is a Medical Oncologist at Green Bay Oncology, treating many types of cancers and adult blood disorders. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology and holds a degree in Chemistry from the University of Iowa. David attended medical school at the University of Iowa College of Medicine and completed his internship, residency, and oncology fellowship at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He has authored multiple trials in lung and pancreatic cancer and co-authored many in lung and gastrointestinal malignancies. When he’s not working, Dr. David enjoys playing basketball, tennis, and skiing, traveling and attending concerts, and spending time with his family.

David’s wife, Caitlin Groteluschen, is a Registered Dietician and Certified Lactation Counselor. She has experience working in private healthcare practices and hospitals, including as a Registered Dietician at UW Health. In 2004, Caitlin earned her Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Your relationships strengthen in different ways, and you just embrace that.”
– Caitlin Groteluschen

This week on Cancer Covered:

  • How aware Caitlin was about the death and dying aspect of David’s job before her father’s diagnosis
  • How Caitlin’s father was diagnosed with three different types of cancer
  • Transitioning from an oncologist’s wife to becoming a cancer patient’s caregiver
  • The emotional and logistical challenges David faced following Caitlin’s father’s diagnosis
  • Having open conversations with children about death and dying
  • The emotional drawbacks of compartmentalizing death
  • What it was like for Mitch to care for David’s father-in-law
  • The emotional turmoil that occurs when we know that better treatment options are on the horizon but are still too far out of reach for our loved ones
  • How patients cope differently with hope and determining when enough is enough
  • What it was like to involve hospice care and watching a patient or loved one pass away
  • How grief impacts people differently
  • How physicians offer support and comfort to terminally ill patients and grieving families
  • How Caitlin’s, David’s, and Mitch’s attitudes and perspectives about death and dying changed after Caitlin’s father passed away


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