To fight or not to fight, that is the question.
How tightly do we want to hold on to life?
What are we willing to suffer to do that?
Is having hope delusional?
Should everyone be told the truth about their condition?
I’ve seen some social media discussions about what is and is not encouraging to people battling potentially terminal diseases.
Some said that it was wrong to encourage people to fight. It was selfish. Another said we should encourage them to fight.
One said it’s wrong to tell them everything is going to be ok if the chances were greater that it wouldn’t be ok at all. Another said that we should let people have their hope.
And on…and on…because everyone’s got an opinion and many of them like to share those opinions as if they were sent from on high. Well, I have another point of view.
Having worked with potentially terminally ill people for many years I know that it’s not always true that everything will be ok. Whether it’s a terminal illness or a chronic illness.
And I also know that more people than you think simply do not want to be confronted with that verdict because they want to live in hope. Or they intend to defy the verdict. And it’s also true that some do defy it.
I know that some people want encouragement for their fight, while others just want someone to just “be there” for them without comment.
All of this is individual.
Hey, the truth is, NO ONE would go through the kinds of (often) barbaric treatments that are today’s standard of care if they didn’t want to fight. If they didn’t want to hope. That is a FACT.
And I know that some people are just tired. Too tired to fight any more. And they want to let go of this life gracefully.
No one approach is better than another. They are both valid.
I say, let people have their hope and even their delusions, if that’s what gets them through the night. Why do we have to push the bad news on them in the interests of “being honest” if that’s not what they want? If it would create greater anxiety to be faced with it?
As for those people who want to let go, we must respect that decision as much as it might pain us, and support them on their journey home.
What struck me in all of these discussions was how so many people felt that their way was the only way.
But there is no one right way to handle a serious disease. No matter how much people might want to pontificate.
I say we just LISTEN.
Listen to the patient. Listen to what they say. Be there for them, no matter what path they choose. If they want to go, don’t hold them here. If they want to fight, support that fight.
And know that every single person is different. They’ll walk their own path regardless, but we can make it harder by thinking we know what they should do.
One of my favorite things in my new healing gift packages is the “You’ve Got This!” sticker. The “this” it refers to isn’t the cure. No, not at all. It’s the challenge. “You’ve got this!” means that you’re standing in your power and from that position of strength you will make the decision that’s right for you. Fight? Let go? Doesn’t matter. You’ve still got this because you’re standing in your strength.
Not too long ago a close friend was recalcitrant about some palliative treatment. Here’s what I said to her, which is the same thing I said to my mother:
If you’re saying that you’re ready to go, then I will support you every step of the way. But if you’re not done yet, then I’m going to ask you about this treatment again and again.
And when someone asks me what they should choose, this Native American proverb is always my answer:
Listen to the wind, it talks.
Listen to the silence, it speaks.
Listen to your heart, it knows.
-Native American proverb
See Part 2 of this tomorrow. For more information on dealing with major illness and disease, visit A Healing Spirit.