The Mantra: Live For Now

Medical pills

Before reading the article “Letting Go” I had no concept of the issue that we have with modern medicine and not knowing when to stop. I have had deaths in my family, but I was young and was not involved in what was going on. I do remember the mentioning of Hospice when my grandfather died, but only knew it as the place where my Poppa was going to die. After learning more about Hospice, and especially after reading the short story, I would certainly choose to prepare to die rather than take on treatments that will most likely make my end of life time much more difficult. There were so many alarming statistics in “Letting Go” that really opened my eyes. By no means do I think that if I were a doctor it would be easy for me to inform people that they are going to die soon or to give them a life expectancy, but the fact that “more than forty per cent of oncologists report offering treatments that they believe are unlikely to work” frightens me a little bit. I believe that it would be extremely unfair if a doctor gave me a drug that they did not think will do anything to help me just to prolong having to tell me that I’m going to die. I, as a person, have the right to know when I should start preparing to die and so does everybody else. What people do with that information is up to them. Sarah’s case was very unfortunate. I understand her drive and will to live and to raise her baby, but maybe if someone would have sat down with her and really explained things to her and her family, she could have spent her last months with more peace and tranquility and much less pain and suffering with hospice or palliative care.

“Hospice deploys nurses, doctors, and social workers to help people with a fatal illness have the fullest possible lives right now. That means focusing on objectives like freedom from pain and discomfort, or maintaining mental awareness for as long as possible, or getting out with family once in a while.”

When medicine can not save a person’s life, it should make the end as comfortable as possible. That is exactly what Hospice is.

“Curiously, hospice care seemed to extend survival for some patients; those with pancreatic cancer gained an average of three weeks, those with lung cancer gained six weeks, and those with congestive heart failure gained three months. The lesson seems almost Zen: you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer.”

Who knew? I certainly didn’t. The word needs to be spread and actions need to be taken to inform people so they know the steps that need to be taken in order for them to have the best possible quality of life when the end is near. People need to be more educated about the choices they have and they need to be told the truth about each choice. We need to be empowered and given the tools to ease our minds and at least try to make the end come easier.

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4 thoughts on “The Mantra: Live For Now

  1. The statistics in the short story definitely shocked me as well. Is so interesting to know that doctors give treatments to patients that they don’t believe will work. I agree with the statement you said about having the right to know when to start preparing to die. I think everyone should be given that right and information, not just give patients the hope of a medication to work when it probably will not. Hospice would have definitely been a better option for Sara during her last months. Learning about hospice in class and in the reading, has opened up a whole know world in which I think hospice is a great place to be when your near the end. I think Sara would have enjoyed hospice and time with her family instead of being weak from treatments.

  2. I also was surprised by the alarming statistics in this article. It seems, to me at least, that most people would opt for palliative care or hospice. It seems strange that people would go through the harsh treatments instead of enjoying their last days. I suppose the diagnosis of a terminal illness would be extremely hard to accept. If I was in their position my denial might cause me to choose the harsh treatments as well in hopes of a miraculous cure. I agree that someone should have sat down and explained to Sara the gravity of her condition, and that recovery was unlikely. It so sad to see people have false hope of a cure and spend their precious time and money trying to beat an illness that will kill them. I think if some people really understood that they were dying they would want to spend their final days being comfortable and without pain.

  3. I can’t not think of a more concise or appropriate quote then the second one you chose. The fact that so many doctors are perfectly fine with advising a treatment they don’t even think will work is very alarming. Even the author found himself unable to let the people know that their prognosis was poor. He acknowledged that he wanted to, but as he described it “My solution was to avoid the subject altogether”. I found it most interesting to note that the way we think of the word treatable is an equivalent of curable, when in reality these two are not that close. His tactic to avoid the despairing reality of the situation was to appeal to the fact that the cancer was “slow-growing and treatable”, not that it was incurable, and the odds were not in her favor.

  4. Educating patients is definitely a practice that needs to be examined more by doctors. By educating patients of the realistic chances for survival and the time frame of which they have to live can allow a patient to live the rest of their life in peace knowing what the outcome will be. In Sarah’s case she was not informed of her chances of survival so she spent months going through treatments that ultimately did not help her survive. If doctors had been straightforward with her then maybe she could have spent more time with her family and loved ones in order to prepare for her death. Doctors do not like to tell patients the grim truth because it may worsen their health but in the end it may be the right thing to do because it will allow patients to live out their last few days in peace. Overall, i think you addressed the topic of educating patients in a very good way and also your description of hospice is spot on.

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