On April 16 my doctor said, “There’s nothing more that can be done [to treat your illness], adding “I usually only have this conversation with people in end-stage cancer.” He signed my death warrant that day.
It took me thirty days to get to where I could say, “I may be dying—but I’m not dead yet!”
What the stupid schmuck should have said was “There’s nothing more that can be done—so let’s talk about the course the illness will take, and let’s come up with a plan for how you’re going to live the rest of your life.”
What doctors do best is diagnose. An astute diagnosis tells you what’s wrong, which then lets you consider options. People who self-diagnose are idiots. I diagnosed myself with a pulled muscle in my hip when in fact I had twisted my sacroiliac: two very different courses of treatment. One friend diagnosed herself with cancer when what she had was an infection. Another friend—well, I won’t share that one, but here’s the important thing: if something is wrong, go ask your doctor what it is.
What doctors don’t do at all well is treat. They load you up with drugs that do more damage than good. There are a bazillion natural treatments that will get you out of your own way so your body can do its natural healing thing—naturopathy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, medical massage, veganism, various manipulations of light and air—there are so many ways to heal that don’t include putting manmade chemicals in your body. Get a good diagnosis and then look around for healthy ways to treat yourself.
What doctors do worst is make prognoses. Nobody can tell the future—your doctor can’t do it any better than your psychic reader. The difference between the two is that your psychic will be very up-front and tell you that her predictions can be altered at any time by you making a different choice. Your doctor thinks he actually knows what your future is.
When I was on life support in the ICU, a bunch of doctors told my mother that there was nothing more to be done and it was unlikely that I could survive. What they meant was she gonna die—now, but they carefully couched it in doctor-speak to cover their butts.
That was thirteen years ago.
Ladies and gentlemen, your life is in God’s hands. Only he knows when you’re going to die. Don’t believe anybody else. (Maybe God woke up this morning, stretched, and said, “Charlie’s pissed me off one time too many—today he goes.” Or maybe God said, “Annie has got so much going for her—maybe I’ll help her out one more time so she can maximize her potential.” [Except that God doesn’t use language like that.])
So I woke up this morning having some confused dream about Brian and computers and death. I don’t pretend to have figured out what it all means, but let me tell you about Brian’s wife. She was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and the doctor’s prognosis was that she would be able to work and live a relatively normal life for about another ten years. Fact: within a year she was down and out. Within three years, she was receiving total care from her husband, and when I say “total care” what I mean is she sat in a chair and he did everything except feed her and poop for her. Within a couple more years, her husband was suicidal. Being the total care provider sure takes it out of you.
We had a friendly relationship in the beginning but in the end I was really angry at her. She loved her husband but wasn’t doing anything to take care of him. In fact, she wasn’t doing anything. The woman still had her mind. She and Brian were both computer scientists and he supplied all kinds of assistive technology but she used it to play computer games when she could have been doing so much more.
So what does that say about me? What can I do? What do I have left? I can still be wise for younger women. Yesterday I listened to a young woman trying to work her way through a very painful experience in her life (oh, hell, relationship—it’s always about human relationships). As she left she said to me, “You know, you ask good questions.” There you go, I’m a good question asker.
I have two blogs wherein I have posted 822 essays; that’s the equivalent of about six books. They have been read 106,386 times, which is about how many times a day your heart beats—and I haven’t done any advertising. What do I have left? Well, maybe publishing some books. (Who reads books anymore? Anybody?) I’ve got something left in the way of writing, though less than I used to. High glucose levels slow down the brain and make thoughts lazy and fuzzy. (So now, instead of being really smart I’ll just be average?)
End-of-life planning is about what you still can do, not the fact that you can’t do much anymore. Only God knows when the end will come, and he ain’t tellin’.