Monday, February 13, 2012
And On The Days When I'm Not Running...
I can't really write much about work because of patient privacy, but I can tell you about the emotions. Most days pass with little blips on the radar screen, small tremors, nothing earthshattering. Today was one of those days that registered big on the Richter scale, up and down, all day long. None of the things that happened were new to me, it's just that they all converged on this one paticular day and happened together.
My coworkers and I were commenting to each other about how insignificant our little problems are, something that we do a lot, given the patients we see.
It's hard to watch when people don't do well, and they have few options, and life becomes boxed into a narrow time frame and they have no control over their decline. Meanwhile, someone else, similar age, similar type of cancer, does well, is cured, and goes on with their life. Then a family member of the person not doing well interacts with the person who is doing well. I found myself wiping tears after listening to my patient talk about her feelings of guilt over being the one who got the lucky break. The tears were mine.
I also watched someone experience joy of finishing their first chemo treatment, because they are so thrilled they made it through a quarter of their treatment, and they have no idea how rough things are about to become, but they are so happy to have made it through the first day with no nausea, no adverse effects. So excited that they give you a big hug before going home for the night, after a 10 hour day of chemo. Give them a couple of weeks, and they might think something different, or maybe not, but for now, they feel like they can do this, they can make it through chemo.
Sometimes people you never expect to make it very far surprise you. Some of it is luck, some of it is attitude, some is determination and stubbornness, support and love. I find myself blown away by seeing them smile because they just found out there is another option that will keep them comfortable longer, when other people faced with the same options would have said long ago, forget it, it's not worth it to live like that.
Sometimes people you love have to deal with very difficult situations and there is nothing you can do for them, all you can do is watch from a distance, and be there, and let them know that you are there.
I got to experience all of this today in one day.
One thing I have learned is don't hesitate to go see someone if there is ever a doubt that you might get another chance. If someone is important to you, make sure they know it. That was what I said to my patient who felt guilty about her good outcome when the other patient her age was facing a short time to say goodbye.
Sometimes, I can't believe I'm doing this. Sometimes I can't believe they're paying me to do this. Sometimes I can't believe it took me almost 50 years to begin.
Sometimes at the end of the day, when I leave work at 9 pm after a 13 hour day and walk toward the parking garage, I take a deep breath. That breath speaks a language of prayer and thanks and gratitude and love.
And I know I will be back there at 8:00 tomorrow ready to do it again, and be better, for what I experienced today.