This afternoon I saw the movie Miracles from Heaven with friends. I got caught in several places in the film. At one point, the friend beside me must have seen the tear that leaked down my cheek, because she reached over and patted my knee. The doctor was telling Christy Beam that her daughter Anna was seriously ill and that nothing more could be done for her at that hospital. That single tear turned to a waterfall later in the movie when Dr. Nurko realized that there was nothing more he could do for Anna either. Interestingly enough, I was not crying for Christy or Anna or even myself. I was feeling the pain of the doctors. I knew that sense of helplessness only too well. I have experienced it from many of the doctors under whose compassionate care I have found myself.
My family doctor has been amazing and I have sung her praise many times. If it were not for her, I would probably not have survived this long. Her concern and expediency since first finding my mass has been exceptional. The surgeon had the toughest task of all as he delivered the diagnosis and all the risks involved with treatment. I wanted to hug him the day I left his office for the last time but I never did. I have been very grateful to him and his amazing staff, including those under his watch who ordered me a birthday cupcake while I was on a full fluid diet after surgery. He has been brutally honest with me, and even though it has been a struggle, I do not think I would have wanted it any other way. The interventionist who did a procedure prior to surgery was exceptional and patient. He explained the procedure well and promised me that he would complete it, whatever happened. His kindhearted staff were merciful to me, as it became clear this would be a longer than average event. The oncologist I see has also been a blessing. She is the one who suggested that I go on a trip after she delivered the news that the cancer was back and nothing more could be done. When I mentioned that I might go to Barcelona, she brightened and asked to see my photos when I return. I have also seen a doctor who practices acupuncture and he has been generous and gentle in his care.
One of the scenes from Miracles in Heaven has Christy hugging Dr. Nurko, one of the nurses, and the receptionist who we discover later convinced the doctor to see Anna. I cried here too. I have been so blessed with good care for the most part. I have had one dud of a doctor but the rest have been superb. The surgeon’s nurse gained my respect early in our meetings. As I said goodbye to both her and the receptionist, I wanted to hug them both but I could see their sadness on their faces and did not want to dissolve into tears. I wondered then when I had stopped being a patient and became a person to them. I think it was pretty early on. This was one of those moments of realizing we do not comprehend the effect we have on people and vice versa.
Of course, there was also the resident who came and sat by my bedside during my meltdown in the hospital and lifted me up, giving me the courage and strength to stand on solid ground. She helped me find my inner boss. Her I did hug…and I wept openly with gratitude for the gift she gave me.
The physicians could not do their job without the outstanding support system behind them. I have spoken before of all the staff–the health care aides, the housekeeping staff, etc. At CancerCare, the receptionist who learns the names of each patient is a living saint in my mind. The nurses who carry out the treatment plan have been fantastic–some of those I did hug as I left. The social workers are also an important part of the team. The dietitian has been supportive and affirming. The pharmacists I have encountered both in CancerCare and at the drug store have been patient and empathetic.
I know that doctors can get a bad reputation for not being human. I have to admit that I can be wary of specialists having had some less-than-ideal consultations with some. However, in this circumstance, I am grateful for the team I have had accompanying me. Watching the film reminded me that these health care professionals and their support staff have to deal with the sorrow of losing their patients. This is not easy. Tonight I want to say that they are amazing and have my utmost respect.
When was the last time you gave thanks for a doctor, nurse or support person?
Consider saying a prayer for those who work with the dying. What would you want to pray for specifically in this regard?
Great Physician, thank you for making us human, with hearts made for love. Pour out your Spirit on those who work with the dying. Give them courage and strength for the journey. Help them to be a Light to those who are fragile and vulnerable. Grant them patience and joy. Protect them from despondency. Bless them abundantly for working in this field. Amen.