The Center for Communication in Medicine, which I am a founder, decided that our next SpeakSooner Community Education Program on October 26 in Bennington would focus on the theme of transforming a medical crisis into an opportunity to find meaning and joy in one’s life. Planning this event brought to mind a woman whom I had known from time passed.
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.
Always interested in receiving feedback about the “Difficult Conversations Toolkit”, a patient asked me if I would read what she had written. “I am unsure,” she said, “of how I have structured it.”
“I’d be pleased to read what you have written,” I said.
“Learn the art of fragmented, irrational conversations and follow
the patient’s lead instead of trying to control the dialogue.”
Zen and the Art of Coping With Alzheimer’s
In the days when there were video stores I would walk by the film “Iris” countless times, knowing it was a story of the writer Iris Murdoch and her husband’s experience with her cognitive decline due to Alzheimer’s disease.
I recently stumbled upon a writing exercise completed by a patient who participated in the “Writing is Good Medicine”TM, program, which I created to help patients put words to their experience of living with illness. Participants were encouraged to share their writing with family and healthcare providers in order to open communication about issues and concerns. For one exercise I posed the question, “What do you expect from your doctors?”
In Man’s Search for Meaning Victor Frankl said, “The quest for meaning is central to the human condition, and we are brought in touch with a sense of meaning when we reflect on that which we have created, loved, believed in or left as a legacy.”
I’d been thinking about the topic of my next blog when I found myself catapulted back in time to 2008 and an article written by Dr. John Launer in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, which referenced my work as a medical humanist. It was titled, Learning Humanity.
Recently I was asked if I had read “The Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager and Doomed” by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.
I confessed that I often ignore the rules of punctuation.
Who said, “Poetry is language writing itself out of a difficult situation?” I’m not sure. What does come to mind is the poem “Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver, who was a patient at the time.
“Learn the art of fragmented, irrational conversations and follow the patient’s lead instead of trying to control the dialogue.”
– Zen and the Art of Coping With Alzheimer’s
Denise Grady, New York Times (August 14, 2007)
Recently a colleague e-mailed me the link to Jane Brody’s New York Time’s article Alzheimer’s Patients Keep The Spark Alive by Sharing Stories.