As the weather here in Southcentral Alaska has finished off the nordic ski season (at least the easily accessible) I have had to find ways to try and keep some semblance of fitness. It is much nicer to have this problem compared last year about now I was suffering through a rough viral pneumonia after my second round of chemo and having trouble walking up to the block to Woodland park in Seattle. I had a pretty busy couple days so finding time was a little tough. I could run but I would much rather bike so I actually used the wind trainer. During these moments of immobile mobility I don’t have to worry about cars, other bikers, moose, or early season bears so I feel pretty comfortable using headphones. I listen to This American Life which seems to keep the hour moving along at a good clip mentally.
Interestingly I listened to a program on coincidence and although I would love to now lay out a story on some odd coincidence in my life I can’t really think of any which matched the wonderful stories which were spun on the show. Instead I thought a lot about coincidence and the meaning or lack there of in those everyday occurrences we have and what has been coming up in my life frequently lately. A little unfortunately what came to mind is that I have been presented repeated lately with moments related to death and dieing.
Unless your a palliative care professional this is not a subject that we hear or talk about much in this country. I have talked about it quite a bit this year. Leukemia seems to bring that thought to the forefront of not only my mind but others around me. I do not have control though over the radio or the internet which randomly seems to be presenting me lately with more discussions about dieing. The good news is that most of the information I am hearing about is about how we (the medical profession) have been working to make death a more tolerable experience for all involved. The change and progression of our society and its mindset about death is something which I think is extremely important.
I heard another episode of This American Life this morning while driving with the boys. It was about hospice nursing. I sort of wanted to turn it off but Liam insisted on listening. They talked about how they worked to find moments of learning for the family members and patients to help them understand the control they can maintain over end of life if they so choose. I liked this idea. Jim and I have been talking about a few patients he has which are struggling with this process. The lack of acceptance of the end of life is hard. The teaching process as a physician or a nurse for these patients is so vital.
I hope the fact that these repeated programs and discussions I have found myself in lately are not some harbinger of my needing to accept my own mortality sooner than I would like. Although I am not really worried about the actual event, I think the hardest part is accepting the idea I would be leaving amazing and enjoyable company. Who knows what, where or if my spirit would be going anywhere better or worse. That discussion could go on for a long time. Although these thoughts are tough to cope with I am glad I have the time to think about this. I don’t know how this will translate back to my practice of medicine. I hope just in life I can remind people that although none of us want to leave for good it happens. I think the biggest reason we fear the end is that we don’t want to think of those who don’t go with us coping. So I won’t. I will enjoy the people I get to be with now while I am here. Maybe that is the coincidence of hearing all this death talk, despite fighting cancer I still need to be reminded to revel in the people around me.