Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
This article is dedicated to everyone who has terminal cancer, their loved ones, those who will one day be diagnosed with terminal cancer, and to the multitudes of caring people who are willing to stand up and fight for the lives everyone whom they have any influence over, even when they don't want to hear your convincing arguments that are in their best interest...
When I was told you were coughing up copious amounts of blood and could not breathe well, I had a strong suspicion. When I was told that you have smoked cigarettes for many years, I knew in my heart that in a few minutes I would be meeting you for the first time to tell you you likely have lung cancer. When I read the CAT scan report I knew it had spread beyond any realistic expectations that you could hope for a cure.
When I entered your room and saw your frail, weak body and the look of terror on your face, I knew you were already expecting the life-shattering news I was about to give you.
As I looked into your hopeless, glassy eyes, I knew that no words would be adequate to comfort you. How could they be? How does one feel when she is lying weak, helpless, and alone on a cold emergency room stretcher when a stranger gives her the catastrophic news that her life will soon come to an end?
What thoughts race through one's mind at a time like this? What does one ask? How should one feel? This is supposed to happen to other people, right? Why me? How much time do I have? Could the doctor have read someone else's report? Am I dreaming? When will I wake up and find out that life as I know it will continue as planned? What about all those plans that were made? What about my spouse, the children, the grandchildren?
No matter how compassionate doctors, nurses, and other caregivers may be, they can never, ever fully comprehend that boulder-size lump that fills the throat of someone in this inescapable situation. How can any of us know unless we have personally experienced that type of indescribable pain and anguish?
Nights seem to last for an eternity. Sleep is nowhere to be found, sometimes, even despite potent sleep aids. It's at times like these faith in God and the love and support of those whom we love are all we can cling to, and for many, that is more than enough. Nevertheless, despite one's personal faith and the dedication of a multitude of loved ones, the pain can still be overwhelming.
I woke up this morning thinking about the patient I am writing about and all the other patients in the world who are facing death far sooner than they ever imagined or ever needed to. My heart aches for every one. I have had loved ones die in my home from terminal cancer so I have witnessed tremendous physical pain, as well as emotional devastation at home, as well as at work.
One in 3 Americans will be diagnosed with some type of cancer in their lifetime. No one person can put a respectable dent in the toll cancer takes on our lives and on the lives of our loved ones, but a multitude of people can move mountains. We all can be foot soldiers who play a vital role in helping SOMEONE receive an early diagnosis and be completely cured from a disease that otherwise would have ravaged her and sucked the very life and spirit out of her.
PREVENTION AND EARLY DETECTION can save countless lives! We may not want to talk about "the big C", but we absolutely need to. There are not enough doctors, nurses, or public service announcements in the world to do the job that needs to be done. Everyone can play a vital role in helping to save at least one life! Go the American Cancer Society's website and equip yourself with knowledge that will empower you to effectively counsel your family, friends, and co-workers and encourage them to do those things that will decrease their risk of one day developing cancer, such as giving up cigarettes. Be able to give a persuasive argument about the importance of routine cancer screening, such as for breast and colon cancer. Make a commitment to talk to one person a week to urge him or her to make wise choices.
As I said earlier, I woke up today thinking about a patient I recently care for and terminal cancer patients in general. While I do not have the power to cure them, I do have the power to step up my endeavors to try to prevent others from ending up in the same situation, and so do you. Please join me. Together, we can help save MANY, MANY lives!
ThePatient Whiz is a credit card-size 1 GB USB flash drive that easily fits into your wallet to empower you to keep copies of EKGs, lab results, medications lists and much more with you at all times. It doubles as a patient empowerment tool with articles such as the one above.