“How do you keep calm when you see such terrible things?”
September 2, 2017 3:42 PM   Subscribe

That was really good. As a nurse I work with people with severe and chronic illness - only occasionally cancers so in some ways my patients have a very different experience. But the author captures the painful complexity of being present for illness.

I loved this part: She sits absolutely still and much as I would like to stifle the silence with noisy plans of my own, I follow her cue. It's the hardest part for healthcare providers, but the most important.
posted by latkes at 4:09 PM on September 2, 2017 [12 favorites]

I honestly have no clue how one does that sort of work, remain empathetic and not lose your gourd. Takes more resilient stuff than I've got.
posted by drewbage1847 at 4:49 PM on September 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

I found this very moving. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by Emily's Fist at 5:04 PM on September 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I spend some time on a health care professionals forum, having some health care experience myself. It is heartbreaking what some of them go through (especially some of the pediatric nurses). They feel, but they just can't show it and deal with it in various ways.
posted by Samizdata at 10:09 PM on September 2, 2017

This was an excellent and very moving piece--thank you.

I often wonder how you keep it together,” my host muses, clearly waiting for an answer. Lacking an erudite answer, I simply tell the truth.

“It can be hard,” I reply, “until you remember how much harder it is for the patient.”

posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:05 AM on September 3, 2017 [9 favorites]

A doctor once told me he switched specialties to pediatric oncology because, "I get no trivial cases. Every day is life and death. I want to have a serious career. This is why I went into medicine."
posted by Modest House at 8:05 AM on September 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

It took me a couple of days to get to reading this, as I have been dealing with the death of one family member and the terminal cancer of another. I was reluctant to have my emotions all over the place, but it was a great article. There have been a lot of really kind people along the way. I am amazed at how a lot of people in the health field manage to be both kind and professional. It's an amazing balancing act.
posted by annsunny at 7:18 PM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm adding this to my favorites because there is no way I am remotely prepared to read it for at least a few more months, but when I'm ready it seems like it'll be something really moving. I wish I had known more of the people involved in my mom's care over the long term.
posted by augustimagination at 12:29 AM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

My sister Judith is now retired from a career as an oncology nurse. She also started a cancer support center in her area, and is still quite active in fund-raising and in supporting people in her community who are suffering cancer. Judith is by any measure a spectacular human being, my favorite human being for sure.

She discovered quickly what every oncology doctor or nurse discovers quickly, that you can either harden your heart to protect it from the absolute certain pain you will witness, or you can grow your heart so damn big that it's strong enough to carry you through the hurts. Judith chose warm, she chose to grow her heart rather than to harden it.

She's seen so much. She's lived so much. Her next door neighbor got him a brutal case of some kind of cancer, and Judith was right in the heart of it all, supporting the man suffering it, supporting his wife, supporting their two young teen girls. After a long, grueling fight it took him, pretty much after it took everything from him -- he was a weakened husk. The intimacy in those families, my sisters family and her neighbors family, once you've been through all of that with one another you've really nothing to hide, their friendship was wound up in love, bound up in love.

Two years later, the wife/mother got nailed by a particularly gruesome cancer herself. Yet again, the love deepened, Judith's heart kept growing to keep pace with the ongoing agonies. I don't remember how long she fought that illness before it took her; I do know that, as with her husband, she was a worn husk by the time the race was run.

And all of this time Judith was working oncology, first in a Chicago hospital, later in an oncology practice. Everybody seems to think that it's hardest to see children get eaten by cancer but Judith tells me that's not so, that with the level of intimacy which shows up when people are on the firing line of life/death, it's hard to see any of your people suffer, hard to see any of their families ache and live in the fear of it all.

You'd want to meet her, Judith. Yes, I'm her brother, so maybe I've tilted the scale a little bit, but I surely don't think so. She's got the best eyes, the most understanding eyes, very strong but very warm. Hell of a woman. Best human being I know.

I'm awfully glad she chose warm instead of cold. Many other people are awfully glad of it also.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:05 AM on September 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Your sister sounds like an amazing human, dancestoblue. I would definitely want to meet her.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:42 AM on September 6, 2017

« Older The answer is none.   |   "people forgot they were there" Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments