August 18, 2013

what DOES come out the other side?

I've been away from writing for too long.  It's a cathartic process for me, but remains quite difficult under the current circumstances.  Emotions come at me faster than I can process them.  Besides, I'm more than a bit slow emotionally.  Ask me for a diagnosis and I can that spit out quickly.  Ask me what I'm feeling and I take on the appearance of sloth.  You might as well ask a 6 year old to solve a derivative equation.  I may be slow, but I'm not stupid.  So I looked to the past as to what I felt when my brother was diagnosed, when my dad was diagnosed and all the events that followed.  Do any of those feelings still apply?  Some rules have changed when it's your own kid.  Others still apply.  Like this post.  It's hard to believe I wrote this over two years ago.  It was true then.  But today looking back, it's even more true now, if that makes any sense, especially the last couple of sentences.  My bearings are so lost, I have even less of an idea of what comes out the other side.  And at this point, is there even an other side to the tunnel?

January 15, 2011
what comes out the other side?
    I'm enrolled in an extracurricular class entitled "The Healer's Art".  It's a six-part seminar whereby they train a more human and humane physician.  The second seminar was dubbed "Honoring Loss".  We were instructed to close our eyes, center ourselves and in our mind's eye go to a time where we dealt with disappointment, loss, grief.  No trouble there.  After some exercises, we broke into smaller groups to explore the role that loss plays in healing.  Personal stories were told and after recounting a much abbrievated tale of dealing my with my brother's illness as both brother and physician, I was asked, "did you find things out about yourself that you didn't know?"
    My reply, "in situations such as this, you never really know what you'll do until you're confronted with the situation."  A week has passed from that session and now I'm yet again confronted with more slings and arrows.  My dad went in for a physical and came back with a descriptive condition by the name of pancytopenia.  In a nutshell, his red blood cells (and corresponding hemoglobin), platelets and neutrophils are all way too low.  Family doc thinks, "maybe it's a fluke or instrument problem."  Retest.  Same answer comes back except his hemoglobin drops from 10.0 to 8.6 in just 7-days (normal for a male is >14 depending on the lab, anything less than 8.0 becomes critical anemia).  Conversations between my dad and I flow back and forth.  He thinks that it's due to a bleeding ulcer as he has a history of that.  Nothing terribly serious, in his estimation.  I can tell that he wants to believe that.  If only.  My gut tells me differently.  This is something potentially very serious.  And I'm angry because once again I'm thrust into the position of convincing a loved one that something very dangerous is going on.  This takes priority over everything else, period.  Where the hell is the doctor in all this?  Why does this keep happening?  After reflection, I accept that nobody wants any of these cards but this is the hand we're dealt.  My brother didn't want cancer.  My dad didn't want something from a deep dark road I don't even want to think about, but can't help (leukemia, lymphoma, aplastic anemia, etc).  A sense of naivete still hopes for something less ominous.  We'll have to wait for more testing. 
    The anger is still there.  If anything, it's intensified with the reflection and dealing with my brother going through a rough patch.  I start to wonder if I am capable of doing this.  But no, I can at least now put one foot in front of the other and accompany yet another family member to an oncologist to start the path of naming the demon we're confronted with.  This week, it's my dad.  Next week, it's my brother for a clinical trial.  Somewhere after that I supposedly have some exams, too.  In the midst of all this, I can tell that family members are beginning to become concerned about me.  It's a valid concern, I guess.  In looking ahead, I can't see a damned thing.  I used to think about what kind of doctor or person would come out the other side of medical training with a sense of curiosity.  Now, I have no idea.  How can I?  What kind of life comes out the other side of this?


Cary Reams said...

Not sure why - and I dont have any context for what you're experiencing - but am compelled to share this with you.

Sounds to me like your situation is not too dissimilar from that of a POW. You're in a series of events over which you have very little direct control. As was Josh.

The answer to your question - what kind of life comes out the other side - cannot be known now. And it is the uncertainty that drives anxiety and pain.

The POWs that suffered the most were those that kept setting expectations for release, only to see them come and go. Surely by Christmas, ... Surely by Easter, ... Surely by Independence Day, ...

They had no direct control over their release dates - or even if they would ever be released.

Those that survived were those who found a way to get through the next day and exercise the control that they could. One step. One Day.

What do you control? How do you make today as tolerable (good days will be far and few between) as possible, exercising the control that you do have?

Its a different mindset - especially for a type-A. But its a survivor's mindset. Its a tool. A tactic. An approach.

Isaac van Sligtenhorst said...

It's interesting and quite presentient that you write that as I'm currently reading Victor Frankl's Man Search for Meaning where he chronicles his experiences as a Jewish POW of a WWII concentration camp. As he's also a psychiatrist, he develops a whole theory about man's need for meaning and what that means in the context of enduring terrible suffering.

Cary Reams said...

My reference is James Stockdale.


Isaac van Sligtenhorst said...

Frankl noticed the same trend. More prisoners died after Christmas for lost hope.