In Anchorage we spent the entire 2014 year without a temperature below zero. Yes, Anchorage Alaska! Unto it self I could rant on about that fact but this post is not my spot to vent about how we as humans effect our global climes it is more about how we or I can effect change in my daily life as I stumble through my life with cancer now. It is amazing to think I am quickly approaching my two years since diagnosis date. At the rate I am writing these days my next post will probably be on the anniversary. For this I apologize to those who for the first year of my turmoil followed my ups and downs with such passion. The good news is obviously that I do not have so many ups and downs, well at least not drastic ones. The truth is though that I am feeling fairly soft as I age. The last two days the temperatures here have fallen back to the low teens which is far more normal but I feel like I did as a kid when the temps hit well below zero. I would like to blame it on my new female blood type but in my family Brooke is far better at tolerating cold than us Dudley boys so I don’t think that is it. This new fear of being cold drives me to have moderately different days than I used to.
Today, I am off and despite having no children to tag around I did not spend the day skiing as I used too. I spent the day reviewing charts, mortality charts actually. All deaths at the hospitals I work at get reviewed (as I am sure they do everywhere) and although it is obviously morbid I have learned to use it as a time to reflect on just how lucky I am to still be walking around. Not that the care was poor or that I am afraid of death. More that despite all I have faced so far it is not as bad as some of what we as humans can do to each other when we are sure we can stave off the inevitable for a few more months or years. As physicians we struggle with this far more than I think patients and the public realize. In the US we are a reactive medical community. We have not bought into the idea of preventative care and although our views are shifting we have not embraced the fact that sometimes the best care is less care. By this I mean doing everything should really include realizing that being comfortable and not prolonging what we as physicians often know we can’t fix really is everything.
I often wonder what we as a medical profession could do to change this attitude. I realize though that unfortunately we have a perfect storm which is not likely to blow itself out soon. Doctors and hospitals want to make money, people want to live for ever, Fox news wants to scare us all that death is everywhere (and clearly someone elses fault). So as I read through the charts of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandmas, grandpas….real people, I feel the loss of not just life but of opportunity to learn about what living really is. I use this morbid thought processing to remind myself that living is really just being in the moment and moving forward preferably with a smile.
After my reviews were done I went to another hospital to see a patient, also with AML, whom a partner of mine thought I might give some insight to. I felt more comfortable returning to the oncology unit than I have the last few times, amazing myself how quickly (relatively) the sadness and pain I associate with the unit is wearing off. I spent an hour with the patient just listening and reflecting. She is lost in the cancer canyon, I could see it in her eyes. Yet, that lost look often carries with it a deeper look which I am not sure I used to see. A look that she can see the day light up above the canyon walls. She has the look that she may find her way out. She spoke of finding the lighter moments in the darkness. Those moments when in a sharp bend where the light seems absent you can peer around and there is a streak of brightness which provides just enough light to see which way to head. I think that I gave her a little hope. She made me feel better though that sometimes even as a reactive medical community we can and do produce some good outcomes.
As I left, I talked with many of the nurses who cared for me. They thanked me for talking with Mrs. P. They asked how I was doing? After my chart reviews and my visit… how could I say anything other than “I am doing good. I am living each day.” Despite the morbid sounding nature of my day there is a glow to the day. The weather might have turned colder, and we are finally getting some snow. Both make me happy. My blood may be the reason I feel like the cold is more biting but I don’t think I should let it slow me down. So I sent Brooke out with the boys to ski! I am just going to go play soccer, not really a wintery sport but I am living and it is warmer at the indoor field. Living is just adjusting to what you are dealt and making the most of it while enjoying what you can.
Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.