Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Writing helps me deal with sh#t

No matter how warm-n-cozy I have become with discussing death and dying with my patients, there are some days when it still just really, really sucks. There's every reason in the world to believe that stopping treatment is the right thing to do, that will alleviate unnecessary suffering, so on and so forth.

But today I just can't hack it. I have taken care of this person from the moment they heard the words "cancer" and "malignant". I have seen the ravages of the chemotherapy on his body and the weightiness of his illness preying upon his tender-hearted soul. We celebrated and did the happy dance together when his scans started looking better and his tumor markers came down. Then I received phone calls from his home where he was having difficulty breathing and called an ambulance to take him to the hospital. When the oncologist discussed stopping treatment, I came in the room next to discuss hospice. For the last days of his life, all he wants to do is to be able to visit his children and it looks like he may not even be well enough to manage that.

I told him we would try our best and I reassured him that he had truly given it everything he had..When it gets to this point, many patients ask in an almost child-like way, they want to know--Didn't we do enough? Didn't I try hard enough? If I stop, am I giving up on hope? On a miracle?

I hate when people talk about 'fighting' cancer, it simplifies things far too much and the connotations with 'winners' and 'losers' psychologizes something we have no control over whatsoever. This is not a game, this is not a war, this is someone's life. And if it is meant to end, it will end. None of us can 'win' the fight against the 'end' of our life, no matter what that ending is. We can just appreciate what we have at this very moment.

Life is sometimes so seemingly unfair to the kindest, good-est sort of people which just makes it all the more unbearable to witness. I just trust and pray that it all makes sense in the end, even if not to me.

And so, it's days like this that make me write poetry crap and post it on my blog and hope that it purges the sadder thoughts.

This road is sighing, my old friend.
The sun is waning and the dusk air is chill.
The nightingale sings of our blessings as if reminding us to savor each moment that is still meant to be.

(Be not afraid) the inevitable divide
as this familiar road disappears into the shadowed valley where we can no more walk together.

The tiredness that grips your bones and the nighttime air which spirits your breath
cannot extinguish the glowing flame which I will know always to be your heart.


Anonymous said...

You are AMAZING to be able to do what you do. I'm sure you give these people comfort in a very difficult situation. If something like that ever happens to me or someone I love, I wish that a person like you is around to help make the treatment more bearable.

Tania said...

Beautiful Miss Rae. You have a tough job, and you do it so well.

Jen said...

Why is it always the ones we like so well who we end up losing? Sometimes I wonder why it's not the mean, cranky patients...

michale said...

I'm glad you shared this. I write too. Little short poems as memories.

Jaime said...

What you do for other people is beyond words. As terrifying as death may be, it is a comfort (for me anyway) to know there are people like yourself that care so deeply.