A couple of weeks ago I bumped into a patient *Bob, I hadn’t seen in a while. He is 84 years old and has been getting chemo for about a year. His wife lost a leg from cellulitis a few years ago and has a prosthetic leg. She is dependent on him and they both use a walker to get around. That day they were trying to find the building where they were supposed to meet with his doctor. I happened to know where it was and helped them get there. Along the way, Bob told me that he was done with treatment and wanted to live out his days at home with his family. Chemo was too much for his body and he was miserable. He knew that the chemo was only buying him only a few more months anyway. He would not be coming to the medical center anymore and he thanked me for being there for him.
Imagine my surprise, when yesterday, I found him at the infusion center waiting to get hooked up to an IV. His wife and grandson were with him. I told him, I was happy to see him and Bob responded “I am only here to get some hydration” and his nurse responded, “No, you are here for chemo”.
That’s when the fight broke out. It seems that Bob was brought to infusion under false pretenses. The doctor was called. His wife was crying. His grandson, apparently didn’t know the real reason they were there either and sided with his grandfather. I decided it was a good idea for me to walk away.
About 30 minutes later, the group walked by me and again Bob said his “good-byes”… his wife was clearly upset. I tried to comfort her … I understand her anguish. I also understand the need to live a life worth living and sometimes, it’s better to look at the quality and not quantity. Bob is 84. Even if he didn’t have cancer, he probably would only live a few more years. I think he made the right decision.
I think my Buddhist practice helps me a great deal, working with terminal patients. I know very well, that none of us get out of here alive and we need to focus on living in the present moment and be happy with our lives just the way they are. Gratitude will take you a long way. Whether we have months or years to live — it’s all about the quality of our lives.
*Not patient’s real name