Saturday, 3 June 2017




I've worked in cancer care for the past six years, been a nurse for thirty-one years.  Friday we had a young woman, thirty-four I think, come to us for an MRI scan.  Query spinal cord compression.  She had back pain, incontinence and a seizure on the way upstairs from radiation.  Last month she had total brain irradiation for leptomeningeal disease.  Her husband was wonderful.  They were both wonderful young people.  And that's the problem they were young and she's dying.

This past week has had one patient after another about my age with cancer, with advanced cancer.  More than once when explaining procedures to patients, both the patient and their spouse have burst into tears.  A man two years older than me with stage four bowel cancer with less than a year to live.  A twenty-seven year old with stomach cancer and less than a year to live.  And it breaks my heart every single fucking time.  I'm tired of people dying.

I'm tired of seeing patients come back year after year, or month after month, looking just a little worse each time until they just don't come back anymore.  It used to be that I could ignore the fact that I don't see certain people anymore.  But then I look back six years and realize all the people that just don't come anymore for scans and it becomes overwhelming, the grief and the pain.

I've become friends with some of my patients.  One woman and her husband came to our wedding.  I run into people out walking or at the mall.  I joke with my patients.  I know what some of them do for a living, how many kids they have, that they foster children, that they hate making pickles, that they love chocolate cake.  I have a connection with so many of them and that connection keeps getting broken.

I'm feeling overwhelmed lately with their grief and my own grief.  My boss thinks it's a job but it's not just a job, at least not for me, and that's what's making it so hard.  I'm burnt out.

All of this death is getting to me.  I keep thinking about my own mortality and wondering what it is I am meant to do with this one short, precious life of mine and I wonder how I will feel when I am told that my days here are numbered.  Will I be satisfied with what I've done, how I've loved?  I'm feeling rather old and mortal lately which I suppose scares me a little, a lot. 

I have left behind the age of endless tomorrows and I'm struggling to feel at ease with my own mortality. 




8 comments:

  1. If anyone thinks what you do is just a job should not be working there. You do countless kindnesses for your patients. Most important, compassion.
    Deb, have you ever received Reiki? I found it very helpful when dealing with unending grief.

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    1. Thanks Birdie. Maybe I'll try that.

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  2. So many thoughts, so much to muse over and mull about. I am so grateful that you are in the world, healing people. I think there's a difference between healing and curing, and I do believe that you are healing people all the time, that your connections are not broken except in the superficial sense. I also think you need to replenish yourself regularly, allow yourself to feel this brokenness, this grief and anguish without recrimination. I send you love.

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    1. I'm not good at refilling my own cup. And thank you.

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  3. You make a difference every single day, that is what you do. And you should be so incredibly proud of that.

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    1. I am proud but worn down as well.

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  4. I am so damned grateful for people who work in hospice, emergency rooms, mental health hospitals, etc. I can't even imagine what it must be like facing death and trauma and pain, day in and day out, and still be maintain your own sanity.

    My daughter now works with kids who have suffered emotional and physical trauma. Self care is critical. I always tell her to take time to take care of herself, emotionally and physically. Still, I think burnout is inevitable.

    Blessings to you and all people who sacrifice themselves to take care of others. You are a very special lot.

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