The name of my book is “Bitter and Sweet, A Family’s Journey with Cancer.” Here is a brief summary. In April of 2010, my husband Tim began to have some strange sensations in his side. On May 7, we found ourselves facing stage IV gallbladder cancer rather than a simple gallbladder removal as planned. Five months and one week later, my husband died. Those five months were the most difficult and horrifying time of our lives. It was also an extremely beautiful time for us. We found ourselves using the phrase “bitter and sweet” so often during those five months, that it was an obvious title choice. What follows is the short version of our story…
Our lives had been full of paradoxes. How do you fight for your life and yet accept mortality at the same time? How do you maintain optimism, which is necessary for health, and prepare for your death and get your affairs in order? How do you understand God’s love and compassion, and yet experience cancer and suffering? Continue reading
Standing up from my computer terminal to go see another patient, I caught a glimpse of a small, spindly frail woman being rolled by paramedics into one of my shock and trauma rooms.
Very calmly, I remarked, “That woman is dying.”
The medical student who was rotating with me was unnerved that I would make such a pronouncement out of a mere casual observance, “Oh my goodness! How can you just say that?” Continue reading
We doctors are taught a foreign language in medical school, but we often forget this fact when talking to our patients. Now, unless your patient is a rocket-scientist (and some of mine are, I practice in a NASA-town), then most of your patients don’t “speak” statistics. Continue reading
Many of you felt so strongly about the ongoing need to underscore ways to help people identify end-of- life maps that I have decided to create a mini blog series devoted to this topic. You already know the power of end-of-life maps, so I will skip the pontifications and just tell you this true story:
When you set out on an unfamiliar journey, you will need a map to get to your desired destination. You may pass landmarks, but not know exactly where you are unless you are able to identify these landmarks on your map. The same is true for the journey of life, and specifically, the path at the end of life.
If you are 15 years old and you are walking to school and are hit by a car and you are dying, this is an emergency.
If you are 85 years old and you are out doing your morning walk and are hit by a car and are dying, this is an emergency.
An unexpected dying at any age is an emergency.
In contrast, there are many people dying of advanced chronic and terminal illnesses whose dying should really NOT be an emergency. Yet these poor people come to the Emergency Department for help because they do not know two very important things: Continue reading