Densho Digital Archive
Oregon Nikkei Endowment Collection
Title: George Hara Interview
Narrator: George Hara
Interviewer: Loen Dozono
Date: February 5, 2003
Densho ID: denshovh-hgeorge_2-01-0021

<Begin Segment 21>

GH: Anyway, I retired about thirteen years ago from the practice of medicine, and the medical practice was getting to be a burden. It wasn't as much fun as when I started. HMOs were coming in, increased paperwork, and worst of all was increasing malpractice premium. And at a time, I had to give up OB because the premiums for obstetrician malpractice insurance was so high, it wasn't economically feasible. So I limited to gynecology and had a very nice tranquil practice here in Portland. A number of several hospitals, mainly Good Samaritan Hospital in northwest Portland and Southwest Meridian Park Hospital and had an ideal practice that wasn't overbearing, and I enjoyed it. But alas, I was struck with a diagnosis of having been stricken with squamous cell carcinoma of the pharynx. In other words, in plain English, they found I had cancer in my throat. The doctor initially that was treating me thought, you know, a little squirt of radiation would take care of the problem, but I asked my oncology colleagues about it. He said, "George that can be a very serious disease." And eventually, what happened was I found three excellent physicians, each with their own specialty; first a chemotherapist, and then a oncology specialist in head and neck surgery, and third a radiologist who is in charge of irradiation therapy. And those three doctors got together, and I had talked the surgeon out of his first proposal that he gave me which is a very mutilating destructive procedure to get all the cancer. Anyway, the three put their heads together, and I ceased being a physician at that stage, and I completely became a patient. I was going to do everything they suggested. Anyway, they started out with a fairly heavy dose of chemotherapy, and they used the battleships of the chemotherapeutic agents, and I thought that therapy alone was going to be my demise, but I lived through that and behold, when the surgeon checked the area to cancer, he thought he couldn't feel the cancer. And the latest technique in scanning magnetic image resonance, things like that, was sort of indefinite. So I had couple more opinions on the hill at the medical school, and they thought they can feel something. So we went ahead with the surgery; but this time, it was a local incision with wide resection around the area of the tumor and the bilateral lymph node dissection which was not nearly as mutilating, and they found that the tumor had shrunk, and it was very manageable. And so question of whether it was worthwhile to do irradiation, so I went ahead, had irradiation. And as you can see, I survived all three varieties of treatment and feel so grateful to be a survivor.

And during the recovery period, I remember my association at Oswego Lake Country Club was such that I made very long lasting friendship. One in particular fortunate in having that relationship with a golf pro, the head golf pro at Oswego, Bob McKendrick. And during my recovery, he'd come to the hospital and just sit there for an hour or two and maybe talk a little bit and then come back again, just giving me moral support, and this I appreciated. And later after I had finished my treatment, I was still horribly weakened and had to go to physical therapy just to begin lifting my arms up. Anyway, Bob invited me, he got a part time job at another country club to ride around the course with him while he hit the ball. And then he, you know, told me, you know, "Hit some balls whenever you feel like it." Anyway, he made my recovery that much more pleasant and instilled a lot of hope that I would someday be able to pursue golf again because at that time, I watched the people out on the driving range pushing out the long drive, oh my god, I could never do that again. But anyway, things went quite well, and I recovered, and Bob was with me all this time. And so, my happiest memory of golfing really came from my association with Bob and his friend, an elderly gentleman, who was a member of one of the more wealthy prestigious club is Waverly. And on Monday, which was a non-member day, the course was empty except for some caddies and workers playing. An elderly gentleman, Mr. Peter Murphy, retired lumberman, Bob, and I had a threesome which developed into a real, really outstanding friendship. We got along well. There was competitive urge which made the game more interesting. We played for a dollar or so a nine. And then since the bar at the Waverly was closed on Mondays, we end up at tavern in the Sellwood District and share a pitcher of beer. It was a great relationship. But unfortunately, Peter got so old that he wasn't able to play golf anymore and finally passed away. And so Bob and I would play, but poor Bob had heart problems. And finally there was no medication that could vitalize his cardiac musculature, and he too passed away.

And by then, I wasn't a part of Oswego. I had dropped out. I was living at another standard of living. I was no longer practicing, Social Security, I was a coupon cutter in all the grocery stores. We had a few investments that provided us income for us to live comfortably, but it was certainly a more stripped down, thrifty, economical style of living. And my golfing was with the Nisei group that played the public courses, and I joined the seniors because that was more my age group, and I got along. I knew most of them through all the years that I played golf. It was a good group. And then they formed an boy-girl group called the Swingers, and they had beginners. They had all levels of golfer, and they were a good group. So my golfing experience from the country club level certainly at another level, but I certainly enjoyed myself, and the fact that I was able to play was a bonus. And, you know, the idea of paying big bucks to play a fancy course no longer appealed to me. I didn't have the finances to go and spend a hundred dollars a round. But during the heydays, I was the, you know, I couldn't spend money fast enough to enjoy myself.

I was a car buff. I took up skiing, and finally the whole family did. We went to Sun Valley, and we had a beach house down at the lake, Devil's Lake, and my kids certainly enjoyed the bounties of all this that I was able to, you know, provide. The only thing was I wasn't able to save much money, so what they saw what was they're going to get, I think. Anyway, I am fortunate in having raised good kids, and the older ones went through a difficult time when drugs was really a problem, the hippy era, the flower child, the Vietnam War, the college demonstration, and I was so happy that they came through that period without any horrible lasting, you know, damage to them, mentally or physically.

And so when it came time for me to retire, I felt complacent, at peace and tranquility. The only worry was whether I was going to survive, and fortunately I did. And these last thirteen years after I recovered enough to play some golf although frustrating not as well as I want to, I watch my grandkids grow, and I see the family problems that each are accomplishing and how they're meeting it, but it's certainly a real different cultural upbringing. And I don't know what their future's going to be like, but I'm certainly very optimistic that theirs will be much smoother and that they don't have racial discrimination to the degree that my parents or even my generation had witnessed. And in a way, I think... in a big way, I think the Niseis have clean up the pathway for future generations. And so now when I think back over the times, I reminisce and I, really it wasn't a hard time. There was a lot of pleasant memories and I, one thing I was fortunate, each stage in my life, camp life, army life, medical school, I was able to make good friends, and my friendship with these people, individuals have continued. One of the things I notice is our economic level, you know, one gets richer, and I get poorer. It seemed, you know, we have different interest, but basically we have good friendships and lasting relationship which I'm very fortunate, and I hope this tape is of some interest to others in the future. I'll probably think of other things. Thank you.

<End Segment 21> - Copyright © 2003 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.