Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ready Thyself, For The End Is Near

I've had a couple of minor scares recently involving health issues that have made me pause and think about things. The first came a few weeks ago when my wife had to have a mamogram, and the second came a few days ago when my neck developed a small, painful lump. Fortunately neither turned out to be serious, but the anxiety and fear generated by each made me wonder how people who have terminal conditions maintain their sanity when told there is no hope. My father was anxious and probably fearful when he was given the news, but in the days and weeks before his death he prepared himself and faced it calmly. I don't think I could do that. Although I've always thought that death was an option when things got too bad, being told that it was coming- without any control of the event on my part- is something that would invoke the white-hot terror that sometimes washes over me in the middle of a panic attack. There must be a shock mechanism which kicks in toward the end to keep our minds from dwelling on the finality of the situation or, as in the case of my father, a great faith that we will be taken care of as we journey on toward the next life. Even as I sit here writing this the anxiety builds in me, wondering whether or not I will have enough faith when that time comes, knowing that questioning my faith means not having enough.
I was talking to a co-worker yesterday whose brother and his wife both have cancer. She said that his wife was sent home from the hospital because there was nothing more they could do, and that she was only given a few days more. The couple are expecting a grandson soon, and the woman was asking them to choose a name for the baby before she died, to give her comfort perhaps. Maybe one little thing that she can tell herself she got to do before she died, to know the name of her grandson.

To digress quite a bit here, and I apologize but this is something I have to get off my chest, I don't think the doctors have the right to tell someone that they have x number of days or months to live, or that any condition is hopeless. When my mother was diagnosed with diabetes the doctor told her that she would go blind. Almost immediately her vision started to fail, where it had been perfect to that point. I think the power of suggestion from someone who my mother trusted so much had given her no hope of keeping her sight. When my father was told he had cancer - from the same doctor- he resigned himself to his fate and became a different person right then. Even though he had shown no symptoms and had been fairly active before, he now sat around the house, watching tv and waiting to die. In four months from the time he was told until his death, the only symptom that showed up was a sore throat that he got from when they put a tube down his throat for a biopsy. It saddened me to see him just waiting like that. I suppose most would say that he was preparing himself in his own way, and maybe he was, but I think the doctor's death sentence made him spend his last few months living life less fully than he would have wanted. I hope no doctor ever gives me a sentence like that because I know I'll be the same way. I'd rather have a glimmer of a chance than to feel like an inmate on death row, knowing the exact minute he's going to die, knowing for certain that he will not be around to see the dawn of the next day.


Blogger Michelle's Spell said...

Dear Tim,
I'm so sorry for your recent stresses. I hate health news and avoid the doctor like I would a hatchet-wielding maniac. You make some excellent points about how news is delivered -- some doctors are sensitive, others aren't all that hot. My parents died in such dramatically different ways that I can see your point -- my mother was always being given a death sentence (twenty years before she died, she was always on the border of it) and my dad died in perfect health without a care in the world. I don't want to die in a plane crash, but I suspect his way was a lot better -- happy and whole. As for the question of faith, you have it even when you question it, maybe especially then. Take care, m

8:16 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Sorry to hear about the recent health scares for you and your wife. Myself, I hate going to the doctors for fear that they might find something deadly wrong with me. If I ever get an uncurable illness, I hope I never find out about it until the last minute. I couldn't take a doctor telling me "you only have six months to live". I would spend that entire six months worrying about dying. I'd much rather spend that last six months living my life like I had another 20 years.

3:30 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home