Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Over exposed

The space that once gave me comfort has become a source of constant pain.  I am a breast surgeon and just  months ago my mother died of breast cancer. At my hospital. 

Before she died, I felt blessed to be here, and to be available for her.  My clinic adjacent to the medical oncology clinic, I checked our shared board and could track her through her day.  I would pop in between patients to go to her appointments.  If I missed one I walked 3 feet from my own workroom to the medical oncology workroom to chat with her doctor, my colleague.  When clinic was over or I had a cancelation, I could walk down the hall to infusion and sit with her. I would stop at the coffee shop on my walk over to grab a cookie or snack for us to share.  We would watch the Today show or some Lifetime movie while gossiping about any and everything.  These were my sacred spaces.  The places where I could be a part of healing, not just for my own patients but for my mom.  A chance to be there for her. She has always been there for me, more than I could ever express.  Even during that final admission, I could run to the cafeteria going the back way, I could tell all my family where to park, I helped navigate this monstrosity of a hospital, escorting everyone where they needed to be.  Her team was my team and it gave me a feeling of purpose, and brought her a sense of comfort.  For that I will always be grateful.  But now I sit on the other side of this comfort.  I walk on coals on the stone path from the parking lot to my office.  Each of her last 4 days began with this walk.  Every place is a trigger, every person I work with is both mine and hers.  

The list is endless. Faculty meeting takes me up the elevator to her hospice room.  I've now just stopped going, clinic always runs a "little late" and regrettably I'm unable to attend.  The long walk down the main corridor to the OR or the wards or the ER, represent a piece of her final journey.  I peek through the open door of the ER as I walk by, as if one time Ill see her there, in her pink pajamas on the night she arrived for that final admission.  Each walk through the ICU I feel my walk to her room, sometimes I feel the weight of my daughters hand as we head to visit Grandma.  I follow my chief on rounds and pray that today, I won't have to see a patient in the very same space - one day I do, and I am undone.  Each day I operate I lay before her, in the same operative room where she once lay, in a moment of hope.  The hope I have for my own patients.  Praying that their post operative story will be different than hers, longer and less filled with pain and fear.  


Soon I will walk down the same corridor for a biopsy of my own, in the same room, the same hall, the same side, the same spot.

12 comments:

  1. Oh Cutter. This post is beautifully heart-wrenching. I'm glad you still find hope for your patients, and I hope for you that time will speed up a little and heal your pain. Prayers to you and your sweet mother, who I know is still very much a part of your heart and your hope for your own daughter. Much love and hugs to you.

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  2. I am so sorry. It is terrifyingly hard and sad. The boundary between daughter and doctor is sometimes wispy thin.

    I hope you were able to take some time off after she died - and please don't forget that the hospice bereavement program is there for you. Bereavement support isn't all groups - there are lots of different ways they can help.

    Hugs, if you want them. I will not wish you strength because you have that - oh, do you have that. I will wish you the grace to give yourself permission to be just were you are.

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  3. Thank you so much for this. I had not known about bereavement support. I am looking into it now. I need to take time. Didn't really do it up front, going to take some soon.

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    Replies
    1. Please do take the time - and don't spend it cleaning or organizing or catching up on anything. As painful as it is, spend it with your feelings. I am a total, complete extrovert - I used to hate being by myself. After my father died, I found I needed time alone to feel my feelings without worrying that I was burdening someone or not attending to someone else's needs.

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  4. I wish you courage for your journey and a safe place to weep when you are tired of being strong.

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  5. This was beautiful. I'm so sorry. I wish I had more words to comfort you. Take the time you need to grieve. I hope one day instead of feeling the immense loss and emptiness in those halls and rooms, you remember the love and comfort the proximity once allowed you to show and feel.

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  6. Oh my. My dear. Words can't express how my heart is heavy for you. How my spirit is sending you hugs across the expanse. I cannot even imagine. After my miscarriage I had to find a new Ob-Gyn practice because of the constant triggers. I cannot imagine, thank you for putting it into your words. I am sending some great vibes your way, you are going to rock your biopsy!!!

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  7. Hugs to you Cutter. And prayers, strength, peace, love.

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  9. People have made such great comments on here, it's hard to add anything meaningful, except that I'm so sorry and I'm thinking of you these days. Take care-

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