What happens when someone reveals a difficult part of themselves when they are faced with adversity? New parts of us are expressed as we break down, or we show our teeth, when we fight or bite, or retreat in situations we wished we had never been forced to endure. I have seen all sorts of reactions that range from anger to despair. I have seen people floundering, and others drowning, trying hard to breathe as they search for a ray, a straw to hold on to. The situation is constant, unrelenting and never-ending. At times, their fear grips them, and instead of running away, they go inside to a place that is hard to see. They retreat within themselves, and they do not see or hear me. When I sit in silence next to my patient there is a myriad of things I see, and more I cannot discern. I am not sitting idly watching this, I sit present; connecting, empathizing, supporting, and waiting for something. Maybe that small flicker of courage. Today I will blog about the small things that I witness as a patient slowly finds the strength. I sometimes wish I could tell my patient, I am merely the messenger.
My patient was hunched over as if his backbone was weighed down by the burden of the news in his head. I sat close on a stool sharing the news and embracing the reactions that I have become accustomed to, when delivering cancer-related events. I needed to be present, open-minded, compassionate, and resilient as sometimes I become the target of my patients’ anger. It is never intentional on their part. I have asked myself “Have I ever been this scared? Has myself been endangered, and the ones so dear to me devastated for me, or for themselves?” I go to those times. Many things are said in such situations, that later when I recall them I wonder how one overcomes that reactivity, the impulsivity, and the urge to retaliate. I dismiss all my hurt feelings in these situations, yet I am fully aware of them as I struggle inside too. I search deeply for familiar feelings to balance the raw emotions that transpire. I play with my own fears in my head remaining calm throughout.
My hand touches his shoulder. My voice resonating from a deep place, where my emotions are oscillating, from my own envisioned fears, from my delusions of loss and grief, from a dreadful moment I have yet to live. I talk slowly, at first, telling a small story that is very personal to me. I share that some of my own sufferings a point to reconnect perhaps. I search for my friend who is locked inside the tunnel with no light. It really does feel like I am blind sometimes aimlessly trying to find where they went. I search for small things, and as I find them, like a catalyst, allowing for the exchange of some words, sometimes questions are pummeled at me which I navigate not always with ease, but truthfully. The visit does not always end with my patient leaving with a smile.
Being present is made up of small things, that should not be dismissed as they are that ray of light that bring hope back to a patients heart; even when it does not happen in front of me, I know I have to start it. It is a privilege to be a part of a transformation, but it is exceptionally intimate to be at the start of one.
3 thoughts on “The Messenger”
You are an excellent Dr. and you were a great friend to dad through it all Dr. Mo!!! He thought the world of you and we, his family members,still do!! We will always consider you a wonderful friend who cares deeply for your patients and their families!! We pray for you daily!! He has been gone 6 months already but we will never never forget all the precious memories and all the wonderful care you gave to our dad!!! May God always be with you and your excellent staff!!! I so enjoy your blogs even if they do bring tears to my eyes! ~ Harold Bielema’s daughter ~
Your post really touched me. In the past year I have been with my son and a sister when they received a cancer diagnosis. Your awareness of the great vacuum that sucks hope and reason from a person in those first few minutes after receiving this news allows you to then help bring them back to where these essential virtues can then be re-sparked.
Your ability to be so deeply in touch with your own emotions and feelings while maintaining a commitment to an honest medical evaluation must be a very difficult role. I pray that you will continue to find a balance that keeps you strong, honest, and ever compassionate.
Judy Stark :: Vice President, Health Management and Accreditation :: d 515.777.7056 :: m 515.419.9195
coOportunityhealth.com | 2700 Westown Parkway, Suite 345 | West Des Moines, IA 50266-1411
I cannot comprehend what you go through day in and out delivering the good and the bad in all there is to do with cancer. All I know is I would want to be you in the room telling me good or bad. To my amazing doctor of science. We all love what you do and can offer us there.