Dr Pamela Prince Pyle

Facing Death: Chaos and Fear at the Doctor’s Office

Time stops. 

You look around the room hoping for beauty to be found. Beauty calms your heart, settles your thoughts, and you know in this moment how much you need its power. Your soul is crying, “Beauty, where are you?”

Your frenetic wandering eyes notice a small window half shrouded by dingy white curtains. Yet, through this window picture frame, a solitary bare tree stands bravely in a field of snow. “Ahhh”, your thoughts begin to settle much like the powdery snow where each snowflake finds a home. Beauty is found. 

You close your eyes for a moment, or was it many moments? Impossible to know with time skidding to a halt. Beauty becomes imprinted in your memory as you turn and face the doctor once again.

“John, John? Did you hear what I said? Are you okay?”

You immediately think, “Okay! Okay! What does that word even mean when you just told me I have cancer? I don’t know that I will ever be okay!  You realize your thoughts are screaming masking the lullaby of Beauty. 

I focus once again on the doctor whose kindness is etched on his face. “Could you please tell me again what you found with the biopsy?”

Chaos and Fear

The story of John parallels the experience of many who first hear words such as cancer, ALS, progressive, incurable, palliative care, hospice, comfort care, death, and I’m very sorry. Words and transitions of care, which I call Paradigm Shifts of Health, invariably result in emotions of chaos and fear. 

Individuals and families can first be comforted by the knowledge they are not alone in what seems like a tornado of new words, new experiences, new sufferings, and new courage.

Regardless of culture, ethnicity, financial status, or faith, facing death is the great equalizer. This common destiny is often ignored until own mortality or brushes with the mortality of others, demands our attention.

Chaos is multiplied when one finds themselves ill-equipped to consider their own mortality in the face of a serious diagnosis. You, as the patient, will hear multiple voices, opinions, and lamentations which will cloud your journey with chaos unless you clarify that your voice is the only voice which matters. In the absence of your ability to speak your voice, your carefully chosen healthcare proxy will speak your wishes.

Chaos can be mitigated with adequate planning for the expected and unexpected. Fear, may be your companion for quite some time. Ultimately, the final paradigm shift of health occurs. You have been told there is no further therapy and making you comfortable in your final days or weeks becomes the goal. 

Fear either consumes you at this point, or dissipates, and the earthly traveler fights against the unknown abyss, or walks steadily forward to faith fulfilled. 

A Glorious Secret

If you are John and just hearing your words, find a place of stillness for your thoughts. Perhaps, it will be by Beauty, which stands stark in the soft snow. Allow these new words with their jagged edges to flow freely through your consciousness. Much like river rocks whose edges become soft and then nonexistent, these jagged words are tumbled in the eddies of your thoughts. Learning to accept them, rather than struggle against them, relinquishes them of their sharp edges.

Wisdom, knowledge, and preparation, equip you for facing Chaos. Faith, family, community, church, fellow sojourners, and the power of the Holy Spirit equip you for facing Fear.

If you are hearing words of your final Paradigm Shift of Health, take heart, brave one. Martin Luther said, “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.” You have been given these moments, hours, days, weeks, or months to explore your own belief. 

My belief led me to the cross. I had finally come to the realization that a Holy, perfect God, could not exist in the presence of my sin. I looked to the cross with tears blurring my vision, “Lord, Lord, I need your peace or I shall surely die!”

Jesus, fulfilled my belief with His faith imparted to me. The instrument of his death, became the instrument of my life. The Glorious Secret had been revealed. His desire is to share it with you. 

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

No matter where you are in your healthcare journey, we want to offer you Calm for your chaos, Hope for your health, Wisdom for your weariness, and Faith for your fears. This begins with Living with the End in Mind. 

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