We often hear the term “new normal” used in describing lifestyle changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, those words are familiar to cancer patients.
“In times of crisis we summon our strength…
call on every resource…every forgotten image…
every memory that can make us know our power.”
– Muriel Rukeyser
How does one live with uncertainty when facing a life-threatening illness? Where does one find inner strength? Where does one look for supportive resources? Most patients will tell you that they frequently ask themselves these questions.
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.
Recently, a friend went to the emergency room with complaints of severe GI pain and was admitted to the hospital. Naturally, she was worried about the cause of her symptoms, which she had been experiencing on and off for 6 months. Under the care of her family doctor she tried several medications but none seemed to alleviate her pain entirely. Now, the doctor who she had known for many years and trusted was no longer involved in her care. Instead, a hospitalist appeared at her bedside and would be in charge of the case.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
I recently spoke with two physicians about what patients understand the words “treatable” and “incurable” to mean.