404 Here is How It Can Go when Riding Bareback with Cancer | Stephen Garrett

Here is How It Can Go when Riding Bareback with Cancer

Text Message from Peter;

“So Tired. Mostly from not sleeping. Went to emergency and, as expected they r sending me to Cranbrook for a CT scan. No date yet probably early next week.

I am pretty sure what the results will be. Then things will get interesting.

How r u doing?”

My reply;

“What are your assumptions about the CT scan results? Sending you lots of love and some sleeping dust!”

Peter’s response;

“I am pretty sure they will find the cancer is back. At that stage they will shift to a palliative only approach and wash their hands of me. 

Then I pursue 2 or 3 alternative remedies cuz why not… oh yeah and do all my end of life stuff just in case”

My next text;

“Do the others in our family know what’s going on?”

Peter typed back;

“No. Wanted to wait for the test results to make sure I am right.”

If you ever wondered how a family chats about this sort of cancer stuff this is one example of how it can go. Read the texts carefully, more for what is not being said than what has been written. In Peter’s first volley of this series of texts two things popped out at me;

  • My brother is in the midst of extensive and aggressive treatment and the system can’t set a date for important and meaningful scans leaving my brother and his family deep in the place of again not knowing. I understand the healthcare system, I have worked in it as an interim CEO, I know its complexities and the demands it faces, yet it feels to me very inhumane to leave a family hanging in not knowing.
  • Peter’s statement, poignant in what is not said – “I am pretty sure what the results will be.” – says everything and nothing at the same time. This can be the way we avoid directness and discomfort. Often the family members settle for this type of vague communication because it feels like they are talking (doing something) and yet still skating around the issue. My reply – “What are your assumptions about the CT scan results?” – goes right at the discomfort because I need to ‘really’ know what’s going on. I was asking for some reality.

Peter’s reponse – “I am pretty sure they will find the cancer is back.” – walks us right into discomfortville! Thank you Peter.

And then we pop quickly back out of the uncomfortable place and go to;

Then I pursue 2 or 3 alternative remedies cuz why not… oh yeah and do all my end of life stuff just in case”. Notice right back to the fight and as an aside “do all my end of life stuff just in case.”

And here is the piece that can cause trouble, waiting for the right time or the right information or the right something or other. It can rob the entire group of valuable time to be together, to tell stories, to remember and to have fond farewells;

“ Wanted to wait for the test result to make sure…” Informing the family is again taking us to discomfortville. We can often prejudge the capacity of the family to receive the news and hold it back for their sake – this is really a disguise for us not wanting to feel the deep reality of what is going on. And yes clear information IS important so we need to find the balance between timeliness and data. Time, as death looms near by is of the essence.

Even though alternatives and options are running out “just in case” pops up to relieve the pressure – It is so hard to stay in discomfortville and face the reality that death is way closer than it used to be and the time is coming to really face it.

Yes Peter, get your end of life papers in order it is the most generous thing you can do for your wife and family. It will set your own mind at ease too! And by the way Peter thanks for all the life lessons your walk with cancer is providing for me, your generous sharing of your life and dying is most inspiring.

Warmly and with gratitude

Stephen

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