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*