Beyond the Medical Paradigm – 7

As I stated previously in entry six, I in no way belittle the choices others have made or are making. My choice was mine; it was a choice made between me and my Great Physician.

The following episode when I was 93 was extremely revealing and I think not unusual behavior for any medical persons I might have seen on that day. It confirmed and was positive proof that my personal belief that I would be viewed differently if or when people were aware of the “Big C”.

“Do you know the seriousness of this situation?” This was the greeting from my general practitioner of many, many years at my appointment (he has material and test results that show metastatic breast cancer that he is seeing for the first time). But in my heart I felt the real message to me was “Don’t you know you are dying?” I told him I was aware of the seriousness of my situation; normally the greeting would be a positive greeting with a query of how I was feeling and how great I was doing, whether I needed to do a physical or whatever. This greeting surprised me since it was primarily a statement followed by others that were ominous statements about death. That the situation would get nasty very fast, and it would become very painful.

I told him I felt good, and was so pleased that I was doing as well since I had been so sick just three weeks prior, spending one week in the hospital and two weeks in skilled nursing and rehab (I did not go for the cancer and we never did know why I was so sick). I reported to the doctor that my nausea was gone and my appetite was back, I was not losing weight.  I had energy and actually felt much the way I did a few months prior.  The conversation always returned to the seriousness of the cancer and that his purpose was to keep me comfortable and to support whatever my decisions were. He talked of hospice and the services available through that organization.  He then talked about what my wishes were relative to resuscitation, full code, none resuscitation. etc. He just wanted to carry out my wishes. The conversation centered on what I would want done at the end. He also made clear that he was trying to take the burden of such an action (pulling the plug) from my family and would take that responsibility himself.

Remember, this has been my general practitioner for many years. This is a doctor that for decades has been very active in helping me maintain what he perceived and what I chose as practices for good health. As I became older there has been much conversation about how healthy I have been and how amazing the maintenance, the energy, and productiveness have been.

In other words, in his mind I have been able to maintain my activities at home, my commitment to church and community, my professional life, and in general a normally full lifestyle. During the years of our medical interactions, the doctor has been complimentary and amazed about the level of my health. At 90, he saw me more as a 70-year-old relative to what most people could do and be at that age.

The crux of the conversation proved to me what I believed the perception of people would be once they were aware that I had cancer. Within the past few weeks the perception of my doctor of many years has changed from seeing Sy Tucker as a healthy, active, energetic, unusual 93-year-old lady to a 93-year-old lady who has lived a very full life and needs to face the seriousness of the situation.

I reminded him that I felt as well this day as I did a few months ago. The only difference is that now he knows I have cancer. And he treated me not as a well person but as a very sick person. The purpose of the appointment had nothing to do with how well I felt but everything to do with the disastrous things that were going to happen to me in the next short period of time.



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