Dr Dale Peterson, hope, encouragement, cancer

A Little Thing Called Hope

A Little Thing Called Hope

© 1999 Dr. Dale Peterson; © 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

Jean came into my office a broken woman. Her stooped posture was something I had not noted in her previous visits, nor had she been leaning on her husband’s arm for support in the past. She appeared to be a shadow of the woman I had come to know.

In a soft monotone Jean related the verdict of two physicians she had seen over the past week. One worked at a major cancer treatment center, the other was a local independent cancer specialist. Both had advised her that, given the results of her laboratory and x-ray studies, she would be dead within 3 months. They were sorry, they said, and were willing to begin chemotherapy immediately, but there was no chance of extending her life. Observing Jean’s countenance at that moment the assessment appeared to be correct. Her appearance had changed so much in the few short days since I had last seen her that, unless something changed, I didn’t expect her to live three more weeks, much less three months.

“Jean,” I said, “you don’t need to accept the doctor’s opinions. They are simply basing their prognoses on the assumption that you will go home and do nothing. There are things you can do that could have a significant effect on your condition.”

Her face began to brighten a bit. “Like what?,” she asked.

We talked about dietary changes, about nutritional supplementation, about developing a positive attitude, about prayer, and above all about fighting back. As we continued to explore her options her countenance gradually changed. By the time we had finished she was smiling, sitting up straight, and determined to change her destiny.

Jean did become a fighter. She refused to succumb to the advance of the cancer. She made changes in her life, and she proved the experts wrong. She lived for over two years, remaining alert and active. She enjoyed the time with her family and they enjoyed the time with her. When she finally suffered a stroke death came quickly and without suffering.

What made the difference in Jean’s life? The changes she made in her diet? Perhaps. The supplements she added? Possibly. The prayers of friends and family? Most certainly. In my opinion the most important factor in Jean’s ability to extend her life far beyond what was expected by medical science was a little thing called hope. I saw her condition change before my eyes, in a matter of minutes, the day she came to discuss her situation. She walked into the office a dying woman at the point of despair; she left a vibrant living woman filled with hope and anxious to take on the future.

Jean’s experience is not unique. I have watched people with minor illnesses die from demoralization and despair; I have seen people with devastating diseases live for years on nothing but hope.

I have learned that suicide is, in most instances, not the result of sadness. In nearly every case the act of suicide occurs because the individual has lost the hope of a better tomorrow. Since my life will never get better, the person reasons, I might as well end it right now.

I believe that each of us has been given an awesome responsibility on this earth. We are called to instill hope in the lives of those around us. This is something that was once the primary mission of the physician. Armed will little but compassion the caring physician could ease suffering merely by entering the sickroom.

MRIs, CTs, EEGs, EMGs, SMACs, NSAIDS, SSRIs, H2s, COX-2s, HMOs, PPOs, IPAs, PHOs, CPTs and ICD-9s, as important as they may be to modern medicine can not and must not replace the therapeutic relationship. When the studies and the statistics say that all is lost then it is time to rise above the studies and the statistics. It is time to provide realistic encouragement, to foster hope, and to ask, “How can I lighten your load and brighten your day?”

Having hope does not mean that death will never come. It does mean that the load we carry will be lighter and each of our days a little brighter. It will make us a blessing and a joy to those we meet along the way, and we will remain an inspiration to others long after we take our final breath.

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