Friday, August 12, 2011

They Matter. You Matter. Life Matters.

I work in oncology. All day long I see only a few types of people, people that are facing death, people that are fighting death, and people who have survived from something that was trying to kill them. In my line of work, death is seen far to often. When we go on vacation, we return and have to ask if certain people made it through the week. We routinely browse the obituaries to see who we may have lost. Yes, that is the life I live.
Sometimes it can get to you. I had quite an emotional day today (I think partly due to the school orientation of two of my children and the fact that I was tuned into country music on the radio), By the time I pulled into work I had to dry my tears. I decided I would need to call one of my patients on the way home.
Mr. J had called a few days earlier, and after fighting small cell lung cancer for 19 months, he had decided he would like to have hospice. I had eagerly made this referral, because I knew it was the best thing for him and his family. However, I was yet to speak to him since then.
It is easy to get attached to patients in the field of oncology. People often ask "how do you do it?" When people this, I don't really understand the question. It can be hard, yes..but it truly is a job that carries so many rewards. That is what I love about the job. I truly get to know my patients. Sometimes I may see a person 3 or more times a week, this is more than I see my parents and friends. They know you and you know them.
Mr. J...well, I know him. I don't only know about his disease and the treatments. I know about his children, marriage, brothers, grandchildren and even his dog. I know his accomplishments, I know his fears, I know his loves.
I know these things about many of my patients.
Its easy to see why people stay in the field of oncology. Its easy to understand "how people do it"...we love it. The nurses and doctors I work with, we love it. We love our patients and we love our jobs.
The emotional aspects of the job are part of that. We shed tears, yes. But that can only be done when you share love.
I left the office tonight, late. It is Friday and the day was crazy with the usual Friday admissions and craziness. I jotted down Mr. J's phone number and got in the car and called my husband. I let him know I was on my way. Then I dialed Mr. J. His wife answered, it seemed he was only expected to live a few more hours at best. I was too late, I didn't get to say goodbye. But then his sweet wife said, "I am going to hold the phone to his ear, and you can talk, I think he would like that". So I did. I told him how much he meant to us. How much we all loved him. How much I had learned from him about love and family. How much he would be missed and that we were all thinking of him and his family. Then I heard his sweet voice, he said "I love you, Ok Lisa".
What if I had decided to wait until morning to call Mr. J because I was too tired, or had too much to do? What a blessing I would have missed!!!
I don't know who is reading this, what you do, what your feelings about this are....but can I tell you that these moments, these little things like just making sure people know you care. That you love them. That they make a difference and have affected your life in some way, its important. It DOES matter. Each time that happens it changes you a little bit. It changes them a little bit. You become a part of one another.
They are the connections that make life worth living. Those moments make humanity bearable.
People...they are human. That means they are there one day, and then they are a dandelion or a sunset...they are there, they are beautiful, and you blink or look away, and they are gone. Just ask Rachel at

So make the effort. Make the connection. Take the risk. It is worth it. It truly is!