In my most recent blog What Do You Want From Your Doctor, I shared a response to this question by a patient who participated in the Writing is Good Medicine® program I facilitated at Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center. Despite being seriously ill she expressed “remaining hopeful of possibilities” and wished the doctor would honor her hopefulness in planning care.
While re-reading this blog it triggered memories of another patient who faced similar circumstances. In this instance, in my role as medical humanist, I asked the patient “What are you looking for from your doctor?” While the chemotherapy dripped into her vein I wrote what she said.
“I am looking for a medical companion that would say we can do this. This is a really bad disease but you’re young—you’re healthy and link arms with my husband and me. There’s lots of stuff out there we don’t know about and see what we can do.”
“This sounds like the words from my own mouth,” she said.
“They are and your doctor will read them.”
I believe that it’s incumbent upon those facing serious illness, whether we like it or not, to open timely and honest conversations with doctors about hopes and expectations. As a result, there can truly be a shared responsibility in planning care.