True confession: I’ve had death on the brain lately. My health has been a bit unstable of late, as you know, and, except for last week, I’ve been visiting an awful lot of doctors. My recent ER visits were particularly unsettling, not just because of what the doctors found but also because of the kid gloves they were wearing. They treated me as if I was dying, which I may be at some point, but not tomorrow.
Then the Double Ps came to visit, and despite their riotous nature, we did not talk about anything funny. Rather, we talked about death. They alerted us to Being Mortal, a fantastic PBS documentary which just happened to be on TV last weekend. J. and I watched it together. Wow.
The narrator, Dr. Atul Gawande, wrote the book on which the documentary is based. He spoke of how ill equipped physicians are to deal with patients who are dying, and how they tend to be overly optimistic rather than get-your-affairs-in-order honest. The show also highlighted the feelings and fears of a few patients who were dying.
Consider watching this documentary, but not alone. It’s not easy and it may make you cry. Still, it was enlightening and inspiring and J. and I were both glad we saw it. It prompted a discussion about some really important issues.
Both J. and I need the straight goods about my health. Despite my anxiety, I want to know what I’m facing, and I know J. does too. I wondered whether, since my doctors know I’m a chicken, they would tell me the truth, even if the news were bad. And I wondered whether all those Dr. Doomsayers I’d been meeting were being more honest with me than my usual medical team.
My weighty discussion with J. prompted a conversation with Stephanie, my wonderful nurse practitioner, during my visit to the Cancer Centre this week. I hadn’t seen Stephanie in a long time because, despite the fact that she is highly capable, Dr. Blood has taken over since I’ve been sicker. When Stephanie appeared from behind Door #2, I breathed a sigh of relief.
We told Stephanie about Being Mortal and I asked her, in my usual indelicate manner: “Are you guys lying to me? Is my death imminent and you’re just not telling me?” She told me, in no uncertain terms, that Dr. Blood is not the lying type, and that she and Dr. Blood both have no idea what’s going to happen to me because I am an enigma. My one-of-a-kind body makes predicting my future especially daunting. But she assured me I was looking a lot better than she’d expected based on recent reports.
Ironically, I timed this discussion poorly because my health has turned a good corner. My red blood cell count continues to rise–anemia be gone!–and my platelets are being fruitful and multiplying as well. I’m now stable enough to proceed with a new intervention. Stay tuned for more on this next week.
J. and I both left the appointment trusting that my medical team is indeed being as honest as possible with me. And I was glad we shared our expectations so we could trust that honesty would continue, whether the news is good or bad. Even chickens want to know the truth.