Column: 'Abyssful' Ignorance

Column: 'Abyssful' Ignorance

Hopefully not. But you never know – per last week’s column, until you know. And the preferred pattern seems to be that waiting to be spoken to in person, a week or so post-scan, is the best the process can be; or at least, that’s the process that suits the doctor/HMO. Certainly I can appreciate how telling a patient bad news in person is a more prudent and professional, fail-safe type of approach than a phone conversation or e-mail which is fraught with potential misinterpretation and possibly even unexpected and adverse consequences – especially for the patient/recipient of the distressing news. However, waiting a week for results is hardly ideal and certainly not the stuff of which dreams are made. In fact, it’s exactly the stuff of which nightmares are caused.

Don’t get me wrong; I can take it. Waiting is not for everybody, however; unless you like suffering – then it’s perfect for you. But why suffer in silence – or suffer at all? You already have, to quote Radar from a M*ASH episode: “One foot in the grave and another on a banana peel,” so why double-down or even quadruple your odds and make us learn the meaning of the word excruciating? Why fiddle with Rome when our emotions are already burning? We (“terminal” cancer patients) deserve better. Heck, we deserve your best; and a week of talking ourselves in and out of a million scenarios, most of them bad, unnecessarily, is yet another example of cruel and unusual punishment. (Shouldn’t we have some Constitutional protections, too?) And punishment for crimes not committed is particularly difficult. Still, I guess I should be thankful I’m not incarcerated (although occasionally, I do feel confined to my home) while waiting. In effect though, I am, emotionally. To set these emotions apart from the everyday or compartmentalize them somehow is much easier theorized than actually accomplished. Nevertheless, I don’t suppose nine days (between scan and results) are likely – ultimately – given the progressive nature of my disease, to change the course of history too much. However, it will change the course of the next nine days, and that’s all I’m focused on right now. When you’re in the same boat as I am, time is all that matters, and wasting any of it (to me that means time lived not knowing results immediately or sooner) is a terrible option/reality. And again, given my original diagnosis/prognosis, options are not necessarily what you feel you have in abundance.

Whether delusional or based on any facts whatsoever, options are still your emotional lifeline. Not having them or receiving them later than you’d prefer adds fuel to the fire that a cancer survivor feels (figuratively speaking). Besides, who knows what soothes the savage beast that lives in all of us “terminal” cancer patients? At least for me, not knowing or knowing after the facts are likely in evidence is somewhere between counter-productive and counter-intuitive. As soon as you know: tell me! What are you waiting for? Godot? Let me get on with what’s left of my life. I want to live forward, not worry backward. I’m not looking for control. I’m looking for consideration. If the patient matters so much, then don’t be so matter-of-fact about results. Our lives may be shorter than we expected, so why make us wait longer than we want? Time is on your side, not ours.