It was a normal day. Not that any day is really “normal.” We gathered around the room to talk about the plans for the week. We discussed how we would lead through inquiry, narrative, rounding with purpose, and modeling what we are all about. It’s what we do.
I got a call. My dear friend and colleague asked that I take moment and be in a place that was private. The news was a diagnosis. Cancer. One that is relentless and stealthy. The news delivered almost as if a talking point in a corporate memo. Their intention was to offer it as news to those of us that are close and who care deeply before hearing it through the grapevine. I was numb. Quiet. I removed myself from my seat and stepped into the bathroom and threw up.
There were no signs. It began with a check up and a follow up with a concern and then another follow up and then the news.
Everyone responds differently. They will live fully and from a Bucket List perspective until the body says it can’t take another drop in it, so to speak. Others travel those last miles with different perspectives all their own.
I walk halls every day and see all manner of suffering and hope. I see men and women in white coats and in scrubs and in clothing dawned with artifacts and symbols that send visual signals we are there to do all we can to meet that suffering head on and be a partner in healing or transitioning. This work we do includes treatments and therapies and procedures in buildings and in rooms with equipment and beds lots of stuff aimed at making better. It also includes dialogue and support through conversations about the past and the future and the very real present.
We talked about it all. In the most ironic of twists, they also comforted me as my sadness and anger were clear in the moments together. Then, a few laughs at this mortality which is both villainous and heroic.
Cancer. A terrorist. It begins with a radical cell and moves through the urban streets of the body and consumes life. We fight back. We will, relentlessly. As many times as I visit its victims and its survivors, this beast does remind me of how precious and fragile life is. I am also reminded of how strong we humans can be in body and spirit.
To my dear friend—you inspire us all with your gift for healing others, through your leadership of those who hope to make their own mark in that healing, through your vision of care that looks beyond the barriers of bureaucracy and politics and the petty and the necessary pieces, and through your humanity and advocacy of the very patients of which you are now one. Fight. Live. Know you are loved. Know we will fight with you and fight for all the others who share your pain and your hope.