Thursday, November 06, 2008

TimeLines Show No Mercy

MUSIC: "Age of Aquarius"

"I'm sorry, but you only have 6 months left to live"!!!
Shocking words, aren't they? Not really something that any of us would want to hear.....but in reality, some doctors do choose to tell their patients words similiar to the above. Do you think patients should be told how long they have left to live? I guess that question is very controversial and will command alot of debate, but from a personal standpoint my answer is a definite NO!!!
First I should say there is an exception to my original response. Only in extreme cases when a patient is practically incapable of functioning, should they be told this news. Of course, every medical situation is different and I am no medical authority on the subject, but I can relate somewhat to a doctor giving his/her patient such a diagnosis.
None of us know exactly how long we have to live, and we do not have to be ill to suddenly pass away.
I feel that some doctors relate such devastating news to their patients without taking the time to completely assess their medical situation, and without any thought going into the ramifications of what they are about to tell not only the patient, but also the patient's family. The truth is that NO ONE here on earth can accurately predict any person's longevity with accuracy. I believe that in instances where a patient is confined to bed and their bodify functions are failing, then "maybe" they should be told. I say those words hesitantly.
If a person is diagnosed with severe cancer that has reached enormous proportions, even then caution should be first applied by the attending physician before disclosing a definite timeline.
Timelines are most defnitely a death sentence!
Upon hearing the words, your first reponse is total shock! disbelief! and you immediately receive an indescribable impact. Your world has you once knew it, now in an instant, no longer exists. If you had even one tiny morsel of hope before hearing those words, chances are, they have evaporated on impact. It will take a person with enormous strength to climb out of this abyss. Most people will definitely give up the fight and the will to live, once they receive that death sentence.
Let's look at it from another perspective. If a patient's medical information is relating all negative results, but yet the patient is still mobile and in relatively good spirits, a doctor should possibly advise that patient of the not-so-positive test results but with an entirely different approach.
Tell the patient that everyone should always have their affairs in order, and that this might be an appropriate time to do theirs as well, but stress the fact that no one individual, despite what the medical facts are detailing, can predict an accurate timeline. Each person reacts differently to terminal diseases, each one reacts differently to medications and each one has different levels of mental strength to sustain their longevity. Yes, there is a better way to annouce incurable results to any patient, rather than just flippantly disclosing that approximate duration of life.
Doctors who give timelines to their patients do not realize that they also are giving it to the patient's families as well. As a result, lives are put on hold, lives are rearranged and lives are constantly on CODE RED alert.
Thankfully, there are those very strong individuals who are determined to beat the odds, no matter how high they may be stacked against them. These are the patients who maintain that positive attitude no matter what comes their way, and in the end, they are the same patients who outlive their original death sentence by months, years, and yes, even decades longer than what was originally predicted by their physicians. For verification of this, all you need to do is look around at those you know personally who have survived original timelines, when everyone else thought they weren't going to make it. On our Cancer Cafe chat forum, we have talked with those whose loved ones have survived 10+ and 14+ years and just think how many other survivors are out there of whom we have not heard about.
What makes me an authority on this you might ask? My husband has outlived his original timeline, many times over and I personally can attest to the impact that original death sentence had on our family as it suddenly exploded on our lives.
If any of my viewers have received similiar news, please know that you are not alone.
Remember that in order to win, you have to fight and those statistics are really just numbers!!!
I've posted a discussion question on today's Cancer Cafe chat forum for you to express your opinion on this topic! It will be interesting to read each person's remarks. Thanks for participating.


Anonymous said...

Deb,I have to agree on what you had to say on the time limit.The doctors are not God.I have been fighting breast cancer for 7 years.When the doctor says the big "C" word immediately it means death to every body minds???? The load is very heavy on your shoulders,but when they give you a time limit it stays there ALWAYS.With no time limit each day the load gets lighter and lighter.You are a very special person and I know the load is quite heavy on your shoulders!

Anonymous said...

As you just said, giving a length of time to live definitely does take away any patient's hope. Boy, you sure have got to be a very strong person to even try to live after being told that kind of news.
I hope doctors are reading your words.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb
Well leave it to me to take the opposite side of the coin. I work in health care so let me take the other side. Hospitals and physicians have protocols and policies that they have to adhere to. When dealing with cancer there is a lot of mystery involved so a lot of times physicians have to deal with statistics and trial outcomes. Especially if they are dealing with new drugs. So when a patient presents him/herself and the only information the doctor can relate to is statistics, it is protocol to tell the patient the information they have. What would you do if you didn't know and all of a sudden your loved one passes away and you are left wondering "what happened - no one told me it was that bad" or if you didn't know and you missed the opportunity to truly talk to your significant other and know thier wishes and giving them the opportunity to say "good bye". In my personal opinion I am glad we were told. Yes is was shocking and we were devestated however we got our business in order. Then we chose to "get to work" and work towards fighting this beast. We chose to dig and dig for info and fight. We took it as "never say never" and as our statistics show Joe has beaten the odds. Do we hold this against his oncologist?- today no but when it happened it took time to get over the shock. If the table had been turned and we didn't know I beleive I would have totally resented not being told.

Maybe the debate should be on "how we are told". Some physicians do not have much deplomacy or bed side manner and they blurt it out. Trust me I know for a fact that they don't like telling bad news anymore than you like receiving it. However physicians have to keep thier composure and professionalism but I have seen a few of them after they delivered bad news to people and it is not a pretty thing to see. They have emotions as well. I know as well they love it when the odds are beaten and they are proud and thrilled for the patients.

So how we receive this news or how we react to this new is what it is it. Reality is a hard pill to swollow but it is glories to look cancer in the face and say "humm your stats were WRONG". Pray for everyone who receives bad new that they WILL do all they can do to beat the odds. We aren't giving up and I hope and pray others don't either.

Anonymous said...

Why not take your message one step further and address physicians and surgeons (ie.) in medical magazines.
We, as readers, understand exactly what you are saying as many have witnessed "the death sentence" first hand. It's up to the medical professionals to listen to the wants and needs of their patients.
This topic must have been exceptionally difficult for you to write; we are lucky to have your voice!!

Anonymous said...

It's good to have different perspectives on this particular topic and as I said from the start, what I write relates to my personal experiences since my husband's diagnosis.
Being sent home to die not once, but TWICE with cancer leaves a huge emotional scar on the patient and also his/her family. Each time there was never even a hint of any good news for us to cling to. My husband had the emotinal strength though to keep going and NOT JUST QUIT!
Whether it is the legal protocol for doctor's to tell their patients this type of devastating news or not, it is still giving them all the reason in the world to give up hope!!! Doctors should be taught the appropriate way to relate such earth shattering news. We have learned that doctors come with different personalities and very different ways of caring for their patients. If timelines are mandatory, then these professional doctors should ALL be instructed in the proper protocol on how to relay such devastating news to their patients, and at the same time, give them a reason to cling to life.
I strongly believe that alot of our present day doctors, give up way too easily on their patients!

Henry Candioti (with Tiffany and baby Sebastian) said...

I just found your blog and I am so grateful. My husband has been told he has weeks to months to live but he keeps living each day like he has 100 more years to live. He decided not to believe it and now I am starting to believe the same. This post gives me so much hope. Thank you!