I’m tripping a bit because sometimes I pay it forward with these writings. I write for closure, I write because it’s cathartic but, most of all I hope that writings will help. Well, now i know they do because sometimes I have to refer back to pieces I’ve done. I guess it’s a pay forward. Read on and you may understand.
I like to add mood music based on how I am feeling at the time of editing so kick this off and read on…
As I previously confided, I was told that I have a potentially terminal illness in 2010. Disclaimer: YOU WILL NOT be continually bombarded with that news every-time you come to the train. However, I plan to use that news to educate and help others who may be dealing with personally or with a loved one the same sort of issue, facing ones life’s end. I rejoice in the fact the God our creator chose to leave me here a little longer, so I plan to use that time for his honor and glory.
Now, one of the things I realized while in the hospital is that you have to learn to allow others to love you, and be grateful to those who do love and care about you. I will try to explain but, it won’t be easy. When I took my Myers Briggs test while studying at Rutgers university, my letters (THIMG something or other) indicated that I was a closet introvert, with the ability to be a very good extrovert. I laughed later as I taught at a small college previously in North Carolina. My students seemed to love me and my department dean once told me I was his best instructor based on feedback from the students. After each class though I was WIPED OUT WORN OUT… It took a lot out of me to stand before 20 or so students and keep there attention for four hours a night. I learned that my colleagues basically just taught but, I gave my students the benefits of my experience (and Christianity) and actually gave them an evening of interactive entertainment. However, I laughed at my self after each class because I would be SO worn out mentally. Then I remembered my Briggs test results. …And now, whats the point chuck? Well, I have to learn how not to be a closet loner/introvert and allow folks to love me and truly appreciate that. The hospital stay really opened my eyes to that. Further, I don’t have to be ashamed of not being immortal…STH!!! None of us are…but, all of us are if we accept the son of our father, Yahweh Elohim.
I did this interview with a Doctor friend of mine over a year ago prior to my knowledge of being sick. DANNNNNNNNG!!! Didn’t even know it would be for me! SEE THE HUMOR!!! LOL! Well, again I chalk it up as my Father’s provision! …WOW, I just thought of something. I used to head up a ministry class called “PROVISION”. It was a class based on biblical finances. Hey, am I all over the place this morning or what?
Anyway, check out this interview and PLEASE use it if necessary and above all…be blessed!
“How to Handle a Terminal Illness Diagnosis both personally or of a loved one”
Chuckie: My Doctor! My fine Frain of the mind exploration! My lady with De (“DE” get it) wisdom of Solomon! You can tell me when to stop Doc!
Chuckie: Well, Dr. Dee, first…Let me once again thank you for hopping the train and opening the doors of your Doctor’s office car. Although I kid with you, know that I have the utmost respect, love and appreciation for you.
DrDee: Mmmm hmmmm. Flattery will get you nowhere…:)
Chuckie: Doc, this week I’d like to discuss how to handle the news that you, (or a loved one), have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Over the last few months I’ve come into the knowledge of several of these types of situations.
DrDee: Ok, that’s fine, Chuckie. We’ll see what we can do.
Chuckie: As I begin, or shall I say before I begin, what are your most immediate thoughts on this topic?
DrDee: Well, I think that dealing with impending death, either one’s own, or that of a loved one, can be a difficult thing. But unlike unexpected death’s, there is time to prepare. And that can be a good thing, if handled in healthy way.
Chuckie: Immediately upon receiving the news, how can one cope? Especially if you have a medical practitioner whose bedside manner isn’t the best?
DrDee: Well it’s pretty rare that anyone gets diagnosed with a terminal illness out of the clear blue sky. Usually, that person has been having some symptoms that lead them to a doctor’s office in the first place. So the person may have had some suspicions that things may turn out for the worst. Now that doesn’t mean that her friends and family have been made aware of those symptoms, but there is usually at least a hint that something is amiss, and that it could be serious, or the person would not be at the doctor. It’s a really good idea to prepare yourself for the visit where you will receive the results of whatever testing has taken place. The doctor has usually mentioned some possibilities beforehand. Good preparation is to begin researching those possibilities, just in case you hear bad news. Another way to prepare is to consider who it is you would want with you when the news is delivered. Oftentimes, and especially when you have a physician who may be lacking in bedside manner, once the news has been delivered, the person stops hearing what’s being said. So it’s a good idea to have someone with you who can do that listening for you, and possibly re-explain what they heard after you’ve left the office. If you don’t feel you want anyone with you, then at least take a tape recorder with you, and ask the doctor if it’s ok to record the conversation so you can review it later. They usually don’t object. If you have not had a chance to prepare, or you haven’t taken the opportunity to do so, and you have already heard the news, you may want to do all that research. Knowledge is power. Knowledge can also allay some of the “fear of the unknown”. Find out the details of the illness, the course, and the treatment possibilities. People cope with this kind of news in different ways. Sometimes they don’t cope at all. But coping is something that will be going on from the time they hear the news until the day they die, so nobody has to get it “right” immediately.
Chuckie: What are some of the basic things you should ask either your Doctor or your loved one?
DrDee: I think the thing most people want to know is “How long do I have left”. That’s a difficult question to answer, because that all depends on a number of factors, such as what kind of illness you have and what it’s typical course is, whether there is some kind of treatment available to lengthen the lifespan, whether you have any other underlying problems, whether you are in good mental health (depression can weaken the immune system, a positive attitude can actually improve your quality of life, and can strengthen your immune system, which may add a few days to your lifespan) etc. But you would want to know things like what those treatments are, what the possible outcomes of each might be, whether the treatment is going to add or detract from quality of life, whether there will be any pain, and how that pain will be managed, whether there are any support groups for your particular diagnosis. What you may want to ask of loved one for is assistance with developing a will, for the disposition of property and the provision of guardianship for any children who may be impacted, where your assets will go, etc. You may also need assistance with designating someone for “power of attorney”, should you need or want that. You may want to ask for assistance with planning how you want to spend your remaining time, and you may want assistance with telling the family and friends. Sometimes having someone supportive by your side is helpful, when sharing the news with others.
Chuckie: Do you think it is best to spend time alone before telling anyone?
DrDee: That all depends on the individual. Some people need or want time alone to process what it means that they have a very short time left, that they have a terminal illness that may even be very painful and cause them to lose awareness of their identity, or cause them to forget people who are important to them. Others need to have social support immediately, and will want to share the news as soon as possible.
Chuckie: Of course the Bible should come into play don’t you think?
DrDee: It can, assuming the person finds comfort in that book. Many people do find that they have more questions about what happens “after” death, and will begin to seek answers in scripture. Others are clear on what happens, but may not feel so clear on what will happen to “them”, and so they begin to work on their own relationship with the Lord. I think it’s important to ask a person what they need spiritually. A good spiritual orientation can help give meaning to a person’s life, as well as their impending death. It can also be of great comfort to friends and family.
Chuckie: Are there any tips for controlling your emotions both short and long-term? How can you keep control of your thoughts, mind, and reactions?
DrDee: Well, that all depends on what you mean by “control”. I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy to try to keep you from experiencing normal, healthy emotions. It’s perfectly normal to feel sadness, anger, sometimes disillusionment, fear, many things, when hearing that you have something the doctor’s can’t cure. I say find a place to feel. Go cry. Go close the door and holler if you need to. I think it’s important to remind yourself (or your loved one) that you aren’t dead yet, and there is still much that needs to be done to make that a smooth transition for your family. Also, this is the time to decide how you want that time spent. Do you want to see that place you always wanted to see? Go visit those friends you always wanted to visit? Learn that skill you never got to learn? For some, those things become very clear, and very important. And they can still get it done. For others, because of the limitations imposed by the illness, they may not be able to fulfill those “last wishes”. But that’s where friends and family can come in. If you’re loved one “always wanted to travel to Europe”, they may not be able to go, but a friend could surely get books and videos of that place to share with the loved one. Some people want to journal, or write final letters for loved ones, etc. All of these are positive ways to channel emotions and thoughts about upcoming death. Some even want to plan their own funerals, and that’s fine. For those who have a difficult time accepting the illness and impending death, a mental health professional may be needed. A therapist can assist a person to come to grips with the illness, help them work through issues related to death, to leaving family members, and to never having accomplished the things one wanted to. Some are skilled at teaching pain management techniques that can also be helpful, and others can help with the “telling”. Family members can be brought in to therapy sessions, and the news of the illness shared in that environment. Many times, friends and family need assistance coping with the impending loss of a loved one. Sometimes the loss will actually impact their own identity (such as a spouse who will become a widow or widower), and the new identity will take some getting used to. Sometimes there are issues between the dying person and their loved one, and they will need assistance working through them. These are issues that can be worked out without a therapist, but a therapist can be useful, if desired.
Chuckie: In your opinion do you feel that if you tell the wrong relatives or friends, they might tell you all kinds of negative reports and death stories? – And of course that would NOT be what you need at the moment. I read that these stories and reports could cause fear. Further as I understand it this fear could cause the body to release hormones and chemicals that soak each individual body cells which could harm them (body cells) and cause death.
DrDee: Well, that can be true of any situation. Some people just don’t know how to be supportive. And they can certainly cause unnecessary fears. And yes, fear causes a stress response in the body. You know, fight or flight. Only you can’t run from the illness, and in the case of a terminal illness, you already know you are going to lose the fight. So the hormones generated by stress can weaken the immune system, and shorten the lifespan.
Chuckie: How can one best be supportive of a loved one who is in this situation?
Dr.Dee: Listening is important. Sometimes they have a lot they want to say. The person knows you can’t do anything about the illness, but they may want to just know they are loved, and that their lives have meant something. Sometimes they will need answers to hard questions, like why God would “allow” this, or “take” them. Sometimes you will have an answer, sometimes you just have to be honest and say you don’t know. Asking the person what kind of support they need is also important. Sometimes they can tell you what they need. You can also call your local hospice organization, and they offer a wealth of services and information for friends and loved ones, as well as people who are in the final stages of life. Respecting the stated wishes of the loved one is a respectful and supportive thing to do, as well. Don’t promise things you know you won’t or can’t follow through on, but try to be as supportive of their wishes as you can be.
Chuckie: This is certainly not an easy or fun topic but, I felt it important to at least touch on it. Can you share any parting thoughts on this issue?
DrDee: Well, as I mentioned, hospice can offer so many services to those who are dying, and their families. They try to assist with providing as high a quality of life as is possible. Something as simple as changing from solid pain medication to a liquid one can make all the difference in the comfort of a loved one who can no longer swallow well. They can be very supportive, especially during the final hours. They have knowledge of signs of active dying, and can help you to know when to call the family. Having hospice involved can be very comforting, at a very difficult time for friends, family, and for the loved one who is dying.
Chuckie: Thanks again for stopping by. We’ll see you next week for another interesting topic…as soon as I figure out what that will be.
DrDee: Ok, just don’t wait till the last minute to visit me again…my social life might be picking up…;)
Chuckie: WOT!!!Â Well…Just how ugly is he?
Well, it’s a wrap, another great session with the Doctor, Dr. Diedra Hayman Ph.d. .Â Join me on the couch next week for “Therapy Thursday” on the LiFeTrain!