I Did It My Way

It’s a strange thing this expectation that to be a patient is to be expected to voluntarily hand over control of yourself, your life, to another. An often complete stranger. I loathe the word patient. So disempowering. Because as I see it, we are the most vital piece in the whole equation. Medical staff can do their best, but ultimately the decision to heal is ours and ours alone. And it drives me crazy when my knowledge of my body, my knowledge of my strengths, are viewed as irrelevant to the healing process. After all, I know myself best, don’t I! I’m the one who lives in here 24/7. My beautiful oncologist despairs that more medical staff don’t listen to the wisdom of the people who know themselves best.

‘How’s the pain?’ the nurses ask, suggesting I should have some. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to ask ‘Are you comfortable?’. Because they don’t realise how our minds take hold of these suggestions. A couple of well chosen words can do so much good. And when I answer that I’m fine and don’t need the drugs, or that I want to get moving, ‘you’ll pay for it later’ is definitely not empowering. But because I know myself best, I know when to ask for a little bit of help, and I know when I can do it on my own. I think if we stop to listen we all do, don’t we. And it frustrates me the pressure post surgery to comply with another’s way of thinking. The disbelief that I am okay. That somehow I am weird because I don’t see things the way others think I should, that I don’t do things the way others do. Frank was right. I did it my way. And my way is always what is best for me.

Exceptional patients. That’s what Bernie Seigel calls us. And it pays big dividends to be exceptional, doesn’t it. I wonder how much it would surprise them to realise we are all capable of being exceptional. We just need the opportunity. And I long for the day that to be exceptional is commonplace. Three days post breast reconstruction, I walked Australia Zoo with liposuctioned legs. And it was incredible. Perhaps the decision to stretch oneself this far is not for everyone, I know. But with my doctor’s blessing I was good to go, so go I did. Because this life is precious, isn’t it. And I’m not wasting a single moment. It’s one of those gifts that a brush with your own mortality can bring…

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