I was an hour late as I drove into Mrs. W’s driveway. It had seemed impossible to get out of the office, with tall stacks of charts to be signed and three days of unanswered phone messages to take care of, but this housecall needed to be done. A cancer patient, Mrs. W., had asked me to come out and discuss her pain management with her.
My stress had eased a little as I drove along the pretty country road to her house. As she greeted me from her sick bed, I sensed her calm. I sat down, apologizing for being so late. She spoke slowly and with great dignity. She weighed her words as if each one cost her a great deal of effort to produce, and her face showed something between pain and determination.
“I thought I’d be asking you for some stronger pain medication today,” she said, “but then I remembered the wise, old doctor who delivered my first child. He told me I would feel no pain, but a great deal of pressure, and that’s what I remembered, and that’s what I felt throughout the whole delivery. And I think that what I feel now isn’t quite pain, it is only pressure, and I think I can handle it at this point.”
“You mean that you understand the pressure, you know how it behaves, and you aren’t surprised by it or controlled by it?” I asked.
“Yes,” she answered, “that’s it, I understand it, and I’m not afraid of it. I won’t need any medication from you today, and I still have the other ones you gave me.”
We spent almost an hour talking and going through her exam and her different treatments. With her slow, careful way of speaking, and the obvious inner strength of her whole being, I wasn’t there to do anything to her or prescribe anything for her. I was there to listen to what she had already figured out. And I was there to learn.