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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Doctor/Nurse (11/02/06)

TITLE: Terminal Consultation
By Stephen Paynter


ďYou alright, old chap?Ē

I feel myself nod. Apparently, even at a time like this Iím eager to please, eager to give the reassurance that others seem to want. My friend and colleague disappears from my consciousness. All I can think is that this time itís me. My days are now numbered. My hours of comfort, mobility ... even of life itself, will all too soon be running out.

My mind shies away from the thought. I take refuge in meta-level considerations ... So, this is what itís like to be told one has a terminal illness. With clinical detachment, I observe myself. Lost in my own musings. How typical. A classical presentation.

Many times in my career Iíve had to break similar news to others. Almost every time the moment the ďBig CĒ is mentioned the shutters go down, and their eyes dull. Iíve observed that it almost doesnít matter what one says to a patient once youíve mentioned ďCancerĒ for they seem to shrink into themselves, unable to hear anything else of what you might have to communicate.

I realise then that my long time friend is still talking. Heís telling me that they will pull out all the stops. I tune him out. He knows, as I do, that my prognosis is very poor. This type is invariably aggressive. And I presented late. Iíve been ignoring the symptoms. I guess Iíve been scared, secretly all too aware of what they portend.

I struggle to pull my thoughts back to the issue. I am going to die. Me. I canít quite grasp it. Not being there for my wife. Not seeing my girls graduate from University. Not .... living.

How can I imagine it? Life stopping? Separation from those I love. It is so unnatural. An alien event that was never meant to be. An evil intruder into God's perfect world. No ... not evil. A punishment. The righteous response of the Holy One to rebellion. My rebellion. That is what was evil.

Nevertheless, everything cries out this should never be. Death is ... an abomination. Iíve thought so many times. Many patients Iíve lost have provoked this cry within me. But never have I seen it ... felt it ... as strongly as now.

Perhaps thereís been a mistake. Perhaps thereís some other explanation. I will fight it. I will work to develop new techniques ... I will .... I will .... I will die.

I bury my head in my hands. Have I no hope?

ďI lift up my eyes to the hills -- where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.Ē

The Scripture pops into my head. Obediently, I try looking to my God. I try to focus my mind upon the truths by which I have lived. In all honesty, they seem dusty and abstract. The phrase, ďI am going to die,Ē screams in my head. I shake it. Abstract or not ... I will keep looking to my God. I will keep casting myself upon his promises, although the fig-tree does not blossom and the heavens seem as cold as iron. I know no other way.

The verses quoted are Psalm 121v1-2 (NIV).

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This article has been read 846 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sharlyn Guthrie11/12/06
I can't believe there are no comments here! This is so powerful and well-written, that I'm wiping tears as I type. I'm sure you have expressed what many have felt. A doctor, in particular, must struggle with all kinds of emotions, as you demonstrated in this piece.
Jan Ross11/13/06
Oh Wow! How powerful! You brought a reality of terminal illness into focus like I've never experienced. Although this was a difficult piece to read...sobering, actually, it is one that surely reflects the struggle in the heart of all who are told they are terminal. Great work!
Betty Castleberry11/13/06
"I will....I will....I will die." In a few words, you made me care about this doctor. This was excellent.
Jan Ackerson 11/13/06
Your last paragraph could almost stand alone, so deeply moving it is. Powerful, powerful writing. Although I've not gone through this particular experience, I've certainly had no-blossoms-on-my-fig-tree-and-iron-skies seasons. This just gripped me. Awesome.
Joanne Sher 11/13/06
Stephen - this is masterful. You are in better than good form, friend. The second paragraph, as well as the final one , are absolutely superb. This was so authentic it made me ache inside. Bravo.