I said goodbye to my patient who was being transferred to a hospice. He’s going there to starve to death because his cancer is so advanced that he is no longer able to swallow.
I really had a hard time with this. I had spoken to him the day before and he still had a lot of fight in him. He didn’t look like a man who was on his last legs. Nothing about him said “sick” or “dying” unlike some of the other patients I’d encountered.
I hid in the corner of the hospital and cried although I was not sure why. Maybe it was just that time of the month. Or maybe because I felt so damned helpless. Or maybe I cried because I thought it was so freaking ironic that here was one patient who actually did want to eat and had a good appetite, but just couldn’t.
This man had not been ready for the end and it made me wonder about the kind of life he had lived…
Which leads me to the few things that have really struck me from placement at hospital:
1) Value your health.
If you smoke, quit. If you drink copious amounts, stop. If you’re pre-diabetic or have diabetes, work to get that under control. If you eat lots of junk, swap it for lotsa veg. Go out and exercise.
Why bother? Try regrowing a leg that’s turned gangrene from poor vasculature as a result of diabetes or part of your neck that’s been lopped off because of a cancerous growth from smoking. It’s easy to ignore some health warnings because they don’t affect you RIGHT NOW, but once they do… It’s very possible that the consequences are irreversible.
(My dear friends, if I have nagged you of late about smoking or drinking, it is only because I love u. I make no apologies for it.)
2) Be grateful
This has been especially highlighted to me every time I come across a patient who can’t swallow cos they’ve got a tumour, or can’t talk cos they’ve got a stroke… It suddenly strikes me how much i take these everyday liberties for granted.
3) Your state of health affects those who love you most
From the lady who was guilt ridden for not being able to bring her husband home to care for him because he was obese (how do you lift your obese husband into the shower or even turn him in bed when he’s had a stroke and can no longer move himself?) to the husband who was desperately trying to nourish his wife by hiding supplement powder in her soup.
When you’re sick, the people who care for you most are also deeply affected.
4) Live EVERYDAY
Live hard. Taste the food you eat. Tell or show your loved ones you love them. Give your dog a big fat squeeze. Really Listen. Etc etc etc So freaking cliched, but so damned important. There’s a reason why people keep harping on about this shit
5) Find God
Your time on earth is finite. When you’re near your end, will it be a desperate cling because you fear eternal obliteration or a confident walk into the next stage of life?