Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The September 9th World

Four years ago today, a doctor told me my husband was going to die.

Of course, this sentence would have a lot more power if my husband were still alive. It would be more accurate, but less dramatic, to say: “Four years ago today a doctor told me my husband was going to die within a year, and he lived for over another three years.” But even that’s not the truth.

The truth is, four years ago today I dragged the truth from a doctor hemming and hawing and giving “yes” and “no” answers and saying “that’s not my responsibility.” And then I had to break the news to my husband, who greeted it with, “Then why am I even bothering?” That question became harder and harder for me to answer over the next three years. The day I was able to say “I don’t know. You have to answer that for yourself,” was a milestone for me. But even then I got him a rabbi because I figured maybe she’d know. Everything is my responsibility.

Wow, that is poignant. I remember the day 10 years ago when we dragged the truth out of my mother's doctor that there really wasn't much hope for her to live beyond six months (she lived five). And yet she still went through all the chemo and radiation, something we all strongly encouraged out of our desperate need to have hope. I understand why doctors are reluctant to make such pronouncements. How can they know for sure? Won't it negatively affect the will of the patient to live? What a miserable task. I still think I'd want to know what their best assessment was, though, even if I resented them for their "negative" outlook.
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