Sunday, March 27, 2011

we change what we hope for

when you are waiting for the biopsy report to come back, you are hoping it is not cancer.

when you have been diagnosed with cancer, you hope it is curable.

when you cannot be cured, you hope for survival.

you hope for relief of physical suffering.

ultimately, you hope for death with dignity and grace.

you hope for peace.

there is always hope, especially if we can accept that we must change what we hope for.

those simple but powerful words - we change what we hope for - were first said to me by the wife of a very sick man.  i will never forget it.  we were standing outside of his hospital room, discussing the most recent tests that showed that his cancer was not responding to our last-ditch efforts (so crudely but aptly named 'salvage therapy' in the oncology world).  i was trying, probably awkwardly in my still new role as physician, to convey my regret in giving her this news.  she reached out and put her hand on my arm and said those few gentle words.  instead of me comforting her, it was she who put my heart at ease.  how indebted i am to that kind woman for her words.  i now find myself offering those very same words to patients or family members in the face of seemingly insurmountable bad news.  together, when we have to, we will change what we hope for.


  1. So too, I believe, we become more grateful for what we have. For every day or week or even year we never expected to have. My family has had an amazing 11 years since we were told to prepare for my Dad's imminent death, and 15 years beyond his prognosis with CML. His oncologist calls him "the miracle man."

  2. Just lost my dad. Lovely words.