As the year 2017 is coming to a close and a new year is approaching I find myself thinking about what has passed and what’s to come.
A Medical Humanist's Notes
Each month I receive an online newsletter from “Cancer.Net”. The newsletter provides approved information to help patients and families make informed healthcare decisions. A recent issue titled “What is Tumor Board?” catapulted me back in time.
A colleague recently forwarded a New York Times article, “The Appointment Ends. Now The Patient is Listening.” The author Paula Span notes new efforts to help patients understand their health status by recording appointments.
The title of one of my previous blogs in and of itself posed an important question: “What Is A Good Patient?” How one defines a “good patient” varies, as does their reason for wanting to be one. During my tenure as a Medical Humanist at Southwestern Vermont’s Regional Cancer Center I witnessed the difficult task doctors faced in reconciling those who became patients—to their illness.
“We need to raise our voices a little more, even as they say to us,
‘This is so uncharacteristic of you.’ Invisibility is not a natural state for anyone.”
After each of our SpeakSooner community education programs I would ask myself, “How did this program differ from the one before? And, what was the take away?” I often wonder if others ask themselves the same questions.
What brought this to mind was an e-mail I received from a hospice social worker who often attends our community programs.
I don’t know who it was that said poetry is defined as a language writing itself out of a difficult situation. What I know is illness is one of those situations.
When I was first diagnosed,” she said, “I didn’t feel I needed your help. I know how to get what I need—I’m a nurse, we speak the same language.”
“Variability is the law of life…no two bodies are alike, no two individuals react and behave alike
under the conditions which we know as disease.” – William Osler, MD
In my previous blog I noted, “patients’ want to be good patients,” which prompted several people to ask, “What is a good patient?”
I often think about what the writer and patient Anatole Broyard said, “Stories are the antibodies against illness.”
It’s hard enough that a diagnosis comes along to threaten our lives—does it also have to threaten our life stories?
“When I think of people in waiting rooms, including myself, I picture us rifling restlessly through battered magazines,” writes Rachel Hadas, Guest Editor of “The Waiting Room Reader II: Words to Keep You Company”.