Today, over at Laura Munson’s blog, I found an amazing doctor. Dr. Gary Hammer, a rare-cancer specialist at University of Michigan, wrote an open letter to cancer patients everywhere. In it, he shows humility and grace.
Debunking the myth that a doctor has to maintain “objectivity” when treating patients, especially terminal ones, Dr. Hammer claims, instead, that vulnerability and grace open up for both patient and doctor. During an illness, when everything else has been stripped away, the patient and the witnesses, come to be present in a way that everyday life rarely offers.
When my husband, John, lay dying in a hospital bed, I witnessed heroic doctors and surgeons that never gave up on him or his treatment. John’s too was a rare cancer that most patients die from (quite often cholangiocarcinoma patients are given only months to live). But because of the tests at Mayo clinic, and the work of Dr. Gores, the cancer was found early for John and he was able to have a transplant, which saved his life.
Just as Dr. Hammer suggests, rubbing up close to death brings a vulnerability that John and I both experienced. Perhaps that is the lasting gift: stripping away the noise to reveal the vulnerable present.
Here is a link to Dr. Hammer’s letter: http://www.annarbor.com/health/the-roller-coaster-chronicles-an-open-letter-to-cancer-patients-everywhere/.
In her memoir, This Is Not the Story You think It Is, Laura Munson almost loses her husband when he comes home and tells her he isn’t sure he loves her anymore. Most women would have crumbled. Many would have lashed out, playing the villain that would allow him to leave her.
But not Laura.
She tells him she doesn’t buy it. Instead of taking it personally, she chooses to be more zen about it. She decides not to “attach herself” to the outcome, and as a result gives him the space he needs for some good, old-fashioned soul searching.
I applaud Laura. How she acted was nothing short of heroic.
See, I almost lost my husband too. He never lost faith in me, or our marriage, but he almost died. I almost lost him just the same. Reading Laura’s story aligned me more to my own–how universal is the feeling of loss.
When John was sick, I too, chose not to think about what it all meant. To look too far into the future only brought pain and uncertainty. I chose to get through life in smaller increments, just fifteen minutes at a time. And also like Laura, who finds solace in the Montana summer, I too looked to the natural world for comfort.
I find consolation in the accumulation of snow, in the feeling of wind in my hair, in the smell of pine sap. I am held close by the wonders of nature, by adrenaline, by my presence in the environment. Check out Laura’s story at http://www.lauramunsonauthor.com/.