More than a year ago, after my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I began writing. At first I wrote about appointments and logistics, then immense disappointments and more logistics. Eventually I wrote much more as I waited at appointments, and waited by my husband’s bedside. Some people who read my expanding missives, posted for a private community within a larger site (Lotsahelpinghands), began identifying them as blog entries. They suggested that I share them with a wider circle.
I’d like to start here, now, long after the end of the medical portion of this ordeal. Today marks exactly one month after what would and should have been my husband Jim’s birthday. In honor of him on that occasion I gave a talk at the hospital where he was the first Chief Medical Officer. It was about our family’s experiences in the treatment of a dying physician, and about the treatment of seriously ill patients (physicians or not) known well by a treating physician.
Before speaking to the group of physicians I circulated some of what I have written for my children.
The day after the talk, a physician who had been there and whom I did not know wrote to say he works with nursing home patients. He thanked me for sharing our experiences and helping him to “open a door” that he said is easy for physicians to keep closed, even–and maybe especially–among the constant presence of dying and death.
His comments give me hope that the worst of our experiences can lead to some good.