My aha moment today came down in RT (radiation therapy), not just during the tour, but before work while I sat with my friend and listened to her as she whispered to me. I didn’t realize or understand how much work went into planning RT prior to the patient receiving her first treatment, nor did I think much beyond the toughened looking skin on a chest or neck of one of my patients. I knew that many of my patients get radiation but it was an abstract concept until this morning.
This morning I sat with my friend as she waited to be called for her treatment. She was told yesterday that she probably won’t get her taste buds back, ever. Which doesn’t seem like a huge deal in the grand scheme of things until you start to think about supper with your family or teaching your daughter how to cook or the simple enjoyment of flavors. I think about never tasting limes again, or chocolate or even fresh bread and butter and I realize my life would be diminished without flavor because eating and enjoying our meals is part of being human.
I had to lean close to my friend because her throat is too sore to speak louder than a whisper, the same friend whom I talked to everyday on the phone for years when our kids were young. Our voice is how we communicate, how we keep in touch, how we tell someone we’re angry or happy or sad. And now my friend’s voice can’t rise above a whisper.
I don’t want her to know that her skin is going to stay looking like it is now, that she will probably lose her teeth, that life will never, ever be the same again. I imagine that she has been told all of this but our brains are so good at protecting us from pain, even mental pain, that our brains will deny the truth. Each new loss is a shock to her, the G-tube, her taste buds, her skin and the shocks will continue, one by one. And then I magnify this by the number of patients that come through our doors every day and it’s a wonder that the Cross does not collapse just due to the mental anguish that is wrought there every single day. And that’s what I remember today, that every patient is my friend, that every patient is losing something, that every patient is fighting not just a great battle, but small ones as well.