A friend wanted to know: “Why do you write so much about death?” Can’t think of anything more certain to write about, I didn’t tell him. Why give him one more reason to label me morbid?
After 15 plus years of writing for and about palliative care, it is still a pain to make people understand the idea of palliative care. I tell them it is all about life and they only hear the D word. I keep searching for better ways to make them understand.
Then comes along a rare article that puts it across so well. Like Dr Suzanne Koven’s recent piece in The Boston Globe.
“My patient, Janis, is dying. She does not mind me telling you this. In fact, she wants you to know. She also wants you to know what you can do to help yourself when your turn comes. Because it will,” writes Dr Koven.
Janis has ovarian cancer. Her oncologist referred her to a palliative care physician, whom Janis calls Vicki.
After meeting Vicki, “Janis realized that, contrary to common belief, palliative care is not synonymous with giving up hope. Nor does it represent an abandonment of patients by the physicians treating them.
“I didn’t feel abandoned at all,’ Janis told Dr Koven. “I felt more cared for.
If she’d never met Vicki, Janis thinks “I’d be in the fetal position, in this bed. But I’m still up, I’m walking around, I’m coherent. There’s just something that’s driving me. Part of it is who I am, but another part of it is the skills that Vicki has provided me with.”
Dr Koven wrote this because Janis wanted her to “write a column telling people that palliative care can be extraordinarily helpful. She asks me to remind doctors to refer patients early, at diagnosis.
“Janis wants us to know that it’s possible, until the very end of our lives, to live.”
It does not matter if you are in this kingdom or the other. Please do read the “Message from a dying patient”. You owe it to yourself.
Thank you Janis. Thank you Dr. Suzanne Koven.
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