Which Doctor?

My uncle was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June. Fit, youthful and full of energy. Just slightly short of breath. And after the disbelief, I find that I am angry. And surprisingly it’s not with the makers of the asbestos. It’s with his doctors. Because when he asked about his life expectancy, if he had ten years, his respiratory physician said ‘no’. And then other doctors told him he had perhaps one year, maybe two. And wouldn’t even look him in the eye. I ask you, what crystal ball do they have that we do not? Get another doctor I said.

Why crush a human spirit that’s struggling to survive  the shock of the diagnosis? How about being more accurate when asked about life expectancy? ‘I honestly don’t know how long you’ve got’ would be more truthful, wouldn’t it. Because after all, none of us are God. And none of us really know how long we’ve got, do we. That’s the nature of being human, isn’t it. ‘Some people with this diagnosis live only a short time, while others live much longer’. An honest answer that gives hope. Because we are dealing with people, individuals, not statistics. And individuals vary so much. That’s how they get the statistics in the first place. Because we are all so different.

And I think surgeon Chris O’Brien puts it best. When talking about his own prognosis in ‘Never Say Die’, a doctor friend, in fact a lung cancer specialist, snapped him out of it ‘Well that’s all bulls**t, and you know it! Patients decide how long they will live, you know that. Doctors don’t decide how long patients have. We’ve both made that mistake. You just have to decide that you are going to fight this and prove them all wrong’. Sometimes I think the fight is actually against the prognosis and not the cancer.

Because I have lost count of the number of times I have heard of people, given only a small number of months or years to live, who have outlived all expectations. Miracles. And they happen often. Because they have someone to live for… or something to live for. Because they have a different genetic make up. Because they make different treatment decisions. Because they won’t take no for an answer.

And it seems to me that to tell someone they have only x years to live, is little more than the very essence of witch doctoring itself. Which is strange for doctors who pride themselves on their science, isn’t it. For if entranced by the doctors words, what choice does a person have except to give up and die? If only they realised how many people give up when the doctor conveys no hope. Sending ourselves a message of ‘no hope’ just seems to shut things down all the more quickly, doesn’t it. I remember my friend Richard saying ‘Where there’s life there’s always hope’ and it’s true, isn’t it. There is always hope.

And isn’t it incredible how life gives you just what you need, when you need it most? Only 18 hours before I heard of my uncle’s diagnosis I was lunching with a friend. And out of the blue she told me a story about someone she knows who has been living with mesothelioma for ten years now. And he has a real purpose for living. So living he is, despite his diagnosis. And with the power in this knowledge, I was so relieved to be able to arrange for my uncle to chat with him. To counteract the sentence just delivered. Because knowing someone else has done it, means it’s possible, doesn’t it. And hope is one of the strongest life-supporting emotions we have…

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.