want-a-knuckle-sandwich-1310068-639x961She didn’t look good.  Just a few months before, she was upbeat, the news wasn’t good, but the treatment seemed to be working, her energy was coming back.  She talked about fighting cancer before.  Thyroid, breast, and now breast again.  She did it before, she could do it again.  She leaned on her daughter who seemed to be hiding her doubts behind a weak smile.

It came back. After many years.  Why?  Because cancer is a bitch.  The worst bitch you’ll ever meet.  When I saw her today, it was clear.  She was losing.  Cancer was winning.  She cried the moment I walked in the room.  That’s how it is.  Keep up appearances, look the part of strength and vigor, but when I walk in the room, the house of cards fall from the breeze of me just opening the door.  She’s showing me all of her cards like the worst poker player in the world.

What do I say?  I grabbed the tissue box and plucked 3 tissues holding them under her face that had collapsed into her hands.  We weren’t alone in the room, the cancer had invaded.  We talked low, almost in a whisper, maybe we didn’t want the intruder to hear that we were talking about it.  The chemo was failing.  The scans, the labs, the pain behind her long gone breast were all telling us something.  It wouldn’t be much longer.

The active dying process had begun.  Living while dying.  Aren’t we all doing that?  Subconsciously?  Not likely.  Not until something triggers that part of the psyche that says, this ends soon.  I tried to be upbeat, I tried to make her laugh like I always do.  It only worked a little.  She gave me a forced smile.  I think she was trying to make me feel better, too.  That’s the doctor/patient dance.  I care about her, she cares about me, we laugh, we cry, and I want to punch cancer in the face for her.

Photo credit:  Stacy Braswell


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3 Responses to Can’tcer

  1. 2ndhalfolife says:

    Hang in Doc. We heathcare providers suffer a lot too. We’re like sponges and sometimes don’t even realize how much we take in and are wounded by all we suck up for the ones we care for… I can tell you are one of those that are in it because you really care and that makes it especially tough. It’s OK to feel bad yourself because a little piece of us carries the illness right along with our patients… xo

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