You Can Lead a Horse to Water But You Can’t Make Him Drink


I know this was the look on my face when I was trying to convince a patient to eat today.  99% of the time I do not get upset with patients, but today I was very frustrated and it centered around a sandwich.

I have known this patient for over a month. He has lost massive amounts of weight since we first met. I always bring him something to eat and usually he does not eat it. He always has the same excuse. He doesn’t feel like eating.

When I was going through treatment I was the same way. I didn’t want to eat and when I did, I usually threw it up. I finally started eating when I ate cannabis cookies. It helped me with the nausea and I got hungry. I told him to get a medical cannabis card and he did. He told me today that the cannabis didn’t work for him. I told him that everything he was going through was normal, but he had to work through it and eat anyway; he has to force himself to eat. He told me he just can’t.  We went round and round and I found myself getting pissed off.

I know I shouldn’t. He is the patient. It’s his life. But sometimes it drives me crazy when I hear (what I think are) stupid excuses of why someone doesn’t want to do something they know is in their best interest. When I was sick, I was determined to get well. I was willing to do anything  I needed to do that. If my doctors told me to lick the lawn for 10 minutes a day, I would have done it.

The only thing this guy has to do is eat. There is nothing physically stopping him from eating. It’s all in his head. He is being stubborn and his stubbornness will kill him and that’s why I’m frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as pleasant as I could be with him but my face probably showed my frustration. I was telling him how important it was to eat. I had all sorts of suggestions for him. He shot every one of them down. He told me that he knew I was right but he just could not eat; inside my head I was thinking, ” Eat the fucking sandwich dude!!!” If he was my husband, I would have told him that out loud, but I am not his relative. His decision is out of my control.

I just don’t get people though. If he couldn’t eat because he physically can’t (he can get a feeding tube if that’s the case) or if he throws it back up, then I understand his reasoning. But this is not the case. He just doesn’t want to and I guess that is what pissed me off.

Thanks for listening…

Believe it or not, I meditated before I wrote this 🙂  Can you imagine what I would have written if I didn’t? There would have been several more f-bombs thrown in, I guarantee that.

Be well


3 thoughts on “You Can Lead a Horse to Water But You Can’t Make Him Drink

  1. As someone who is still going through cancer treatment, I can see both sides of the issue. I think this patient may just be extremely depressed. I know it sounds cheesy but he needs alot of love. He is probably really scared and angry at the same time. I myself still have these moments and there is nothing worse than someone telling me to “just get over it”. I dont know what would work with him, but maybe just try talking to him about other things than food and just leave the sandwich with him, maybe he will eat it later. This person feels like he has no control over his life and disease and perhaps this is his only way to assert at least some power and feel better about his situation. I know it is very frustrating for you.

  2. The infusion center is full of so many courageous people; patients and caregivers fighting for their health and more time. The person you ran into yesterday is rare but they are there. I offer a few thoughts: try as we might, we can’t completely know what demons the patient is fighting beyond the obvious. One of the amazing philosopher’s of our time, a holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl wrote, Man’s Search for Meaning. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read the book. Mr. Frankl says, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Wonder if this patient might benefit from writing his own blog or imagining a time when he could be helping those who are newly diagnosed? Finally, rest in the reality that, “kindness is never wasted. If it has no effect on the recipient, at least it benefits the bestower.” S.H. Simmons.

  3. wonderful how you
    contain your compassionate efforts
    for the benefit of patients 🙂
    as a dietician i had many moments
    of joy and frustration as people ate
    or they didn’t 🙂

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