A Medical Humanist's Notes

Is Writing Good Medicine?

Over the years I’ve often referenced the Writing Is Good Medicine® program that I created while a medical humanist at Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center. Whether in essays for this blog or presentations at medical conferences, I would use examples of patient’s writings to emphasize what may have been untold thoughts and feelings, moving the spotlight from illness to the person.

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We Do Not Remember Days, We Remember Moments

As I’m getting older, I think about what has passed, passing and to come. I am catapulted back in time to my tenure as medical humanist at Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center (2002-2005). What comes to mind is the celebratory ritual upon the completion of each patient’s treatment, which was an array of balloons and bouquet of flowers. It was a lovely gesture that most patients embraced with the belief they were cured. And many were—but there were no guarantees.

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A Vehicle for Hope

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 2 years ago. Surgery and countless infusions of chemotherapy, with no sustained remissions, have not deterred her from continuing to work in her studio. Options for treatment are now limited as is her energy level.

Her doctor has requested a medical humanist consult to assess this patient’s understanding of treatment options and prognosis. “I was not prepared,” she tells me, “to hear my doctor say ‘I hoped I would not have to have this conversation with you.’”

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