If you have ever been in some kind of accident or have been hurt in some sort of way, a broken bone or even a headache, you know how painful those can be. For most of us we would have anything or do anything to make the pain stop and go back to normal, right? Now, let us take someone who has cancer and has been placed on a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals. Not many of us have felt what being in such a condition must feel like, but one could only imagine. Well for that cancer patient, similar to someone having a severe migraine, they are looking for something to stop the pain that they are feeling and “cure” whatever is wrong with them. Thanks to modern medicine we are able to temporarily or sometimes permanently “fix” specific conditions or illnesses that pop up in society, but not all of them. But what if medicine couldn’t save your life? Or make you feel better? What should it do?
So many different ideas came to mind, but ill limit myself to one. First off, if medicine couldn’t save your life then I couldn’t really find a real purpose for it in our world today. In our world today almost anything can happen to anyone at any moment. When I read the short story, “Letting Go.” by Atul Gawande, it really encompassed the idea that something bad can turn into something worse in an instant. Sara, the main character of this short story, was 39-weeks pregnant when she suffered from a collapsed lung. Results from testing showed that Sara had lung cancer and to make things worse, it had already began spreading. Her labor was induced and she gave birth to her baby girl, Vivian. Soon after doctors focused on how to “beat” Sara’s cancer and placed her on a variety of new drugs. Started with Tarceva, which caused extreme tiredness and rash, was supposed to fight the mutations in Sara but ended up not being the right medicine; strike 1. From that treatment Sara was placed on carboplatin and paclitaxel, but due to the paclitaxel causing a serious allergic reaction, it was switched with gemcitabine, A summer goes by and still her treatment ceases to show any progress and Sara is placed on…pemetrexed, another drug.
All of this “treatment” really made this upbeat, optimistic mother into a more stressed and fragile, cancer suffering mother. After the failure of the first prescription, she must have wanted anything to make her feel the way she was before this occurence and it seemed as if they were just testing medicines with minute certainty that those therapeutics would better Sara’s condition. If medicine was not going to fix a condition then at least it could have caused a greater pain relief so Sarah could spend more time with her new family and potentially had hospice care if she knew this cancer was fatal. Waning to be there with her family and that feeling must have been what kept Sara going a majority of the time while on those medications. If medicine were to have an alternate purpose from just saving your life, it would have to be a way to let you enjoy your last moments by helping you accomplish things you may haven’t been able to before; hospice treatment for example.
So, I just randomly stumbled across this TED talk video during my casual stroll across the interweb and it really caught my attention. Mr. Peter Saul touches on how a majority of people “deny” death and are unprepared for an end-of-life event. He also goes into some research he had done with end of life patients in which the patients were asked what they wanted before death. A lot of what he was lecturing arose interesting questions that a majority of us don’t ask ourselves or others like, “Who would speak my wishes if I was incapacitated” or “Do you have a plan for your own or a family members death”; all very prominent questions that a majority of people disregard.
An interesting topic that I took from the lecture was the advertisement of life and life promoting quotes and how they can pertain to death. I believe that by promoting our knowledge of life and death synonymously in our society today, it could eventually lead those who fear, deny, or are unaware of death towards the acceptance of our dying process.
Just a little brain food for all my fellow bloggers! I hope you enjoyed it and don’t be scared to reply, new perspectives and insights are always welcome!
One of my favorite movies has to be the movie “300”, it’s full of action, more action, and don’t forget the action. A majority of us may remember the plot, but here is a quick refresher if you forgot or just never knew in the first place. We start off with a King Leonidas, ruler of Sparta kicking a messenger into a massive bottomless pit. The reason, he told the Spartan king to resign his thrown by the order of the power hungry Xerxes, King of the Persians. Leonidas decides to formulate a plan in which 300 well trained Spartans would go the Thermopylae territory to bottle-neck the invading Persian army and “hopefully” defeat them. High moral and determination drives the Spartans to engage in a multiplicity of savage, brutal onslaughts. Eventually, due to “Persian Persuasion”, traitors are found both within the Spartan council back home and with some of the Spartan allies; basically, they told Xerxes about a secret path to get the upper hand on the Spartans. From this point on the Spartans begin to face a steep decline in their success and ultimately the 300 Spartans are left no more. But during one of the last action scenes, where Kind Leonidas and his dying men are shrouded in arrows, the language used by the actors and narrator really sums up some important points on how we today can/do look at death; I’ll explain further.
Perspectives on death and dying can change with experience and the knowledge of what it is. We can watch TV shows like “1000 Ways to Die” and laugh about these ironically tragic deaths or cry like a baby while watching the movie “The Notebook”, but is that really how death and dying is? To me, death and dying can be an array of things and depending on what “kind” of experiences with death you have it could be possible to influence how you view it. The movie “300” accentuates courage and longevity, yet King Leonidas wishes that one of his traitors “lives forever”, as Leonidas is kneeling to the Persian king prior to his death. The Persian King is considered a God throughout the movie, but after Leonidas hurls a spear at him cutting his face, Xerxes facial reactions clearly show emotions of a mortal man; not of a God since Gods don’t bleed according to Xerxes.
Each of these situations reinforces the idea that no one is immortal and that life should be cherished even in the presence of death. One of Leonidas’s men, with two arrows in his chest, creeps to his side and says, “It’s an honor to die at your side”, Leonidas responds, “It’s an honor to have lived by yours”; once again embracing life and not accepting death, until they are consumed by arrows. This movie touches on the optimistic and pessimistic views that many people have about death today. The fear of death has spread to many people in our society today, but how is it so simple for those 300 Spartans to accept dying as if it was living? I would believe that a majority of our population denies death and the other majority does not, but through experience and acceptance of life and death we can be as strong as King Leonidas and his Spartans.
Check the clip out from the movie!