People are not their diagnosis
How interesting to note that whenever I start writing, the universe sends me inspiration. This is how a few ladies successively came through my session room with a common interest: healing. Among them was a physiotherapist. She and I had a conversation that touched me so deeply, I had to pen it down.
She observed that many peoples’ perception of illness (including doctors) is fatalistic. Meaning that once diagnosed, you’re labeled as such and whoever you used to be is gone. That once the attending physician makes the “fatal” pronouncement, there’s no choice but to simply follow heed.
She feels differently. Who you used to be is still there. There’s no reason for it to be dismissed just because of the diagnosis. She has seen that as long as the will is there, patients do heal.
But they can’t do it alone, they need encouragement and support. She feels that medical practitioners need to have more awareness of this when working with their patients, so that patients can find the strength to overcome their diagnosis and truly heal.
People must not be reduced for the convenience of medical professionals. Patients are complex and multifaceted with history and a kaleidoscope of experiences.Traumatic medical illnesses and injuries can and does change a person’s life, with the resultant grief, loss and crisis period. But the person shouldn’t be lost, perhaps their identity needs to shift, expand and be seen with new eyes – so much is a mindset. We all have a choice when life throws challenges in front of us.
I feel the same way! Healing is not just about curing an illness. It’s about healing the whole person – emotionally, mentally, spiritually. This is what I know from experience as an energy healing practitioner. What about conventional medicine, which is only just becoming more aware of the mind-body connection? How can doctors help one heal, wholly?
This question brings to my mind a book called “Attending – Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity”. It’s written by family physician and medical professor of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Dr. Ronald Epstein.
He says, attending is “showing up, being present, listening, and accompanying patients when it matters most.” Attending can’t be achieved without practicing mindfulness – being fully aware of the patient as well as oneself – a point he emphasizes throughout his book.
Doctors don't have all the answers
Dr. Epstein shares a story about his good friend who was diagnosed with late stage cancer. Also a doctor, his friend knew all too well what his options were. But when it came to making treatment decisions, he was completely overwhelmed. He asks Dr. Epstein for advice, yet Dr. Epstein feels just as lost as his friend.
However, he doesn’t give up. He walks through the options together. He asks probing questions until his friend gains clarity on what he wants to do. In the end, his friend was able to come to a decision that felt right. He knew he had explored all options. He had no regrets.
I’m sure we would all hope to receive such attentive support if we’re ever diagnosed with a serious illness.
What I find revealing about Dr. Epstein’s story is that doctors don’t know everything. They might have enough expertise to determine what treatments are best for the illness, but they don’t have all the answers when it comes to advising what is best for the patient. I don’t mean that doctors are poorly skilled in this area. Just that even with all their knowledge, it’s very difficult. There’s no clearly defined map to navigate these waters.
How to help one wholly heal
Like the physiotherapist said, traumatic illnesses and injuries do change a person’s life. It’s not enough for a patient to have his illness or injury healed. He wants his life back. But sometimes, the physical changes are permanent or very difficult to reverse. Faced with that grim reality, how can a doctor help a patient wholly heal?
So much needs to be considered… Life history, physical history, personality, temperament, outlook, desires, goals, relationships, support system and more. A new sense of identity or meaning in life may need to be forged. The attending doctor needs to be aware of the physically and psychologically traumatized patient as a person. Including everyone else who’s involved with this patient – medical and non-medical. This would be hugely beneficial for the patient’s wholesome recovery.
I believe this is the kind of humane attending the physiotherapist and Dr. Epstein wants to see more of in the realm of medicine.
I do, too!
May you and your loved ones be supported in the same manner on your healing journey. If there’s anything I can help you with, please contact me here.