“Being diagnosed with a serious illness is like being drop-kicked into a foreign country: you don’t know the language, you don’t understand the culture, you don’t have a map and you desperately want to find your way home.”
I wrote that following a cancer-related diagnosis six years ago that resulted in removal of a part of my colon. One year ago this week I was in the hospital longing for home while recovering from surgery for stomach cancer. Today I am traveling in Spain (feeling fine and minus the drop-kicked part) and am reminded of this analogy every day.
For example, I couldn’t figure out how to punch my ticket on the city bus. The driver told me in Spanish that I barely comprehend to turn the ticket over. No luck. His voice rose: “You put it in upside down.” Again, no luck. He shouted: “Use the other damn machine!”
There’s a man who sits at the front desk at the clinic where I get most of my cancer care. He greets every person who walks past his desk as though Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*
To complain or “be good” is an apparent dilemma for some patients with serious illness.
Yesterday I received an email from a close friend with advanced breast cancer. She’s got a lot of symptoms: Her fatigue is so overwhelming she can’t do more than one activity each day. Yesterday, for example, she stayed home all day and did nothing because she was supposed to watch a hockey game in the evening with her teenage son and other family members. Her voice is weak, so much it’s hard to talk on the phone. She has difficulty writing, in the manual sense — meaning she can’t quite use her right arm and hand properly.
“It’s something I would never mention to the doctor because it is very subtle,” she wrote. “But it has not improved and if anything has worsened over time.”
There are more than a few possible medical explanations for why a person who’s receiving breast cancer therapy might not be able to use her right arm. But that’s not the point of today’s lesson. What’s noteworthy here is that the patient — an educated, thoughtful woman who’s in what should be the middle of her life and is trying as best she can to survive — doesn’t think these symptoms are worth mentioning. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*
There’s an endless list of bad things about being sick. But what happens to the relationships you have with people around you when you become ill?
Let me tell you about a man I know. I will call him Bill, even though that’s not his real name.
Bill is a vital man in his 60s with two grown daughters. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with a serious illness. His illness isn’t going to kill him right away, but it has profoundly affected his ability to work and enjoy all the things he used to enjoy. Worse, he has had a difficult time with his doctors figuring out what exactly is wrong and the best way to proceed.
But all of this isn’t really the hardest part for Bill. The hard part for Bill is how his friends and family have reacted. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*