Thinking about Death (not morbid)

(Despite the title, this entry is not very morbid; I promise.) Today was an unusually quiet day. Monday is the day where I am the only volunteer and on top of that, Trish had a number of meetings. I spent a majority of my time with two patients but saw six in total. One of the people who I only visited for a brief amount of time had just found out that his cancer was more serious than he had previously anticipated. As a result of learning that he was terminal, he was more anxious than he normally was (His doctor told me that he had a history of anxiety). Trish and I gave recommended him a few different types of counselors and some group therapy sessions. Later on, I saw a different patient and gave her a five wishes from. This form instructs the medical staff what to do if a patient is not able to make educated decisions for themselves. It gives certain trusted family members the power to make decisions about the patient’s future, for example whether or not doctors should try to resuscitate them when they die. This also deals with taking patients off of life support or “pulling the plug”.

This made me think about if I was in my patient’s situation. I am not sure how I would handle receiving the news that I had terminal cancer. I’m pretty sure that I would be anxious too and I would not want to fill out the five wishes form because it would make death seem more immediate, more real. Understanding what my patients are experiencing will be my most difficult task during my senior project by far. Almost every patient is in a similar situation. Every case of Gastrointestinal cancer is serious. There is no stage zero cancer. Even the most optimistic patient must occasionally wonder if at their next appointment, they will be told that the cancer has won. I need to always remember this when I am with patients. They are constantly battling for their lives and simultaneously trying to achieve a state of normalcy. To quote a patient that I saw today, “I just want to get to here (she moved her hand horizontally). I don’t care if it’s up here, down here or somewhere in the middle. I just want to plateau.” That is my job, my only job. To provide raise them money, get them respite vacations and to sit down and talk with them. I just want to get their minds off of cancer and illness and alleviate all of their other problems. I just want to get them “here”.

-Matt

3 thoughts on “Thinking about Death (not morbid)

  1. pennmedmatt

    I plan to go into health care one day. Ideally, I would be a general surgeon or a neurosurgeon but I am keeping my options open; I still have plenty of time to decide.

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