Ain't easy, bein' mortal.
I've got several patients dealing with cancer right now, of various types in various stages. Lung, breast, prostate, bone... It's an education. I'm learning about standard western treatment protocols, and alternative treatment options. And I'm learning a lot about people and our capacity to deal with illness and the possibility of death in the real rather than the theoretical.
There are those who just pick a path and go there. They accept the facts of where they're currently at, look it in the eye, and decide on how they're going to deal with it. Or not. But either way, it's face-on, and they're not playing games. One of my breast cancer ladies is like that. She's in the tamoxifen process right now, and will be for several more years. I'm sure she worries from time to time, but she decided how she wanted to deal with it, and continues her life as if she's alive. Which she is, and looks to be for at least another decade. At least. She feels relatively healthy to me.
But another patient, choosing the same protocol, carries on her life of utter terror, always looking for doctors with authority to tell her that everything is going to be fine, that she's doing everything perfectly, that she's eliminated every possibility of recurrence. I have to bite my tongue constantly. She can't hear me, and I don't want to make things any worse for her. I can't imagine what it must be like to "live" in that cage.
And then there's the man who's refused western treatment, and catches me up to date on the world of alternative treatment every time we meet, but somehow never has time to go out and do any of it. There's lots of time, right? Maybe next week, if he can finish painting his daughter's basement and make an appointment... I mean, after all, he feels fine. Yeah, I suppose he is. For now. Very robust, hale. But those bad old numbers keep climbing with every interval of bloodwork, and he keeps me appraised of those too.
At the last appointment I did something I maybe shouldn't have done. I mildly lost it, and told him I wanted to still be treating him 20 years hence, and for god's sake, DO something! Something! If it's not going to be western treatment, then get on that alternative train NOW. He knows it's progressing, and is too young and strong to die without putting up a struggle, so I told him to take that vitality and use it like the resource it is before this creeping disease sucks it dry. Get those freaking supplements you keep talking about! See that herbalist! PLEASE!
Which is my own issues talking, of course. My Inner Psychic Paramedic that sees the emergencies before they happen and wants to leap into kit and fire up the sirens. But dang if that Paramedic's paranoia doesn't keep my eyes and hands sharp for picking up the little signs of big problems.
It's all about fear, and a dedication to reality I figure. I'm not a fan of the Bible at this point in my life, but those constant admonitions to "Fear not!" are good advice. An eleventh commandment if you will. Of course we experience fear, but it's no better advised to let it rule our roost than it is to let any other passion take unchecked control.
I fear. I spent all this past week in a panic attack over something I know is craziness, but couldn't control the emotion that went along with it. But what I can do is talk to myself about the crazy, and not let it wear the pants. Keep going. Act on reality, not my phantasms.
Having had cancer myself, I have some fear about that too. Some. But on the other hand, I've done that and came out the other side, so that's a known quantity and less scary because of it. I keep an eye on my internal weather and shift sail accordingly. I try to live proactively.
I also have a person who denies he has cancer at every possible turn. Didn't tell me until after the fact that he was in radiation therapy, even though it was booked for two days after our first appointment. I wouldn't even know there was cancer at all if I hadn't looked at the history, clicked that something wasn't adding up, and called the referring doctor. This is so far advanced that I'm guessing pain control is the only applicable protocol left.
That's very sad, to me. That such a short time is left in this leg of the journey, and not be able to use it fully because the denial and fear are so strong.
It's going to be an interesting day. Eat your fresh garden greens and live happily and bravely, ladies and gentlemen!